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Folsom Prison Blues

Chapter Text

Heavy breaths.

Crunching leaves.

Two women ran through a withered forest, disturbing the thick blanket of snow.

Fuck!

The one with the sunglasses panted heavily as she jumped over an overgrown root. She could hear the men yelling like wild animals. They were out hunting and the two women were their targets.

—But what they didn't know was that Samara and Michonne were far from damsels and more in the line of flesh-ripping wolves.

The women ran faster as the hoots and hollers neared. Entering a clearing, they were greeted by two walkers who were easily dispatched, if not with annoyance. The undead have become rather tiresome theses past few months, being treated more like pests than actual dangers.

The women's eyes darted in every direction, unsure of which way to go.

"We can't go back to the town." Samara growled harshly. "They'll follow us back to our place."

The dark woman nodded knowingly as she searched for something only she knew. When she found it, she paused for a few moments as her eyes darted from the downed walkers to the tree tops.

"What?"

Samara tried to follow her reasoning but couldn't find one. Either Michonne wanted to drop those undead from higher ground or she wanted to hang them.

Michonne looked at the walkers again before determination settled in. The gaze she laid upon the Native sent a shiver down her spine.

What the hell is Michonne up to?


 

Samara clenched her teeth. Here she was, hiding in the bush like some Zulu warrior waiting for her enemies to appear while Michonne stood perched atop a tree, ready to ambush.

They had some time before the men could arrive to send a message. Enough time for Michonne to indulge in her own dark witticism. The crazier someone thought you were, the higher the chances to be left alone.

Samara's breath hitched as the men entered the clearing.

There were four of them: an Asian man, a young Hispanic, a Georgia man that looked like one of those crazy gun-toting hicks, and him—the metal-hand hunter. He was the real problem. Samara believed he was a hunter judging by the way he moved in the forest, silently and at ease as if he had practiced this all his life.

The beads of sweat rolling down the side of the marshal's temple got absorbed into her mask. The men were talking among themselves as they finally realized the meaning of the grotesque display of walker body parts.

Go Back.

The metal-hand guy laughed in hilarity, calling it a 'biter-gram'. The young Hispanic was the opposite of amused as he took a few steps back in fear. The hick took offense as he got in the others face, ready to smack the sissiness out of him.

Michonne gave the signal.

With a deep breath, the marshal leaped out of her hiding place and ran along the trees making enough noise to catch the others attention.

"What's the deal, ladies? You gonna leap out of the woods, two against four, all of us armed to the teeth and you with just your little pig-stickers?"

Pig-stickers my ass. They had guns, Samara more so than Michonne, only to be used in the most extreme cases, and this situation could be counted as one.

As the metal-hand hick detached from the group to get a clearer view of the runner, Michonne dropped from the tree and decapitated the closest man— the gun-toter. Alarmed, the rest of the men turned just as Michonne stabbed the Asian. Gun aimed, the metal-hand guy was seconds away from pulling the trigger, but Samara was faster as she shot the man in the shoulder, destabilizing him.

Michonne retracted her katana and ran back into the protective cover of the forest. Aiming again, Samara shot at the hick only for him to hide behind the thick trunk of a tree. The other man standing, the young one, remained traumatized by Michonne's brutal executions, blood splattered all over his face.

A shootout ensued as both the marshal and man tried to kill each other.

"Come on, sweetheart! You can do better than that!"

The marshal's annoyance spiked further as the man kept taunting her, thinking that his jeers and calls will prompt her to make a mistake, but Samara wasn't stupid enough to get herself killed over a few lewd and chauvinistic remarks.

Seeing no end to this standoff, Samara took out the smoke-grenade she kept at her belt in case of emergencies and threw it in his direction. Purple smoke clouded the entire area making the man choke on the heavy gas.

Using the protective cover of the smoke, Samara ran in the direction Michonne left.

Breathing heavily, the marshal's boots hit the ground as lightly as possible. Sweat poured in abundance as an unwelcome ghost crawled down her back. Recognizing the signs of an incoming episode, Samara quickly pulled out a small orange container and popped a white, rounded pill. Her teeth crushed the capsule until there was nothing left but fine powder. Despite being the fastest way to numbness, it wasn't the smartest. Unfortunately, she didn't have the time or patience for the normal way at the moment.

The marshal left the decayed forest and hit pavement. Looking around the deserted stretch of road, Samara kept her gun at ready.

Rustle.

Several bushes shook before a body came out. With a breath of relief, the marshal lowered her gun as Michonne walked out, her dark eyes darting back to the forest.

"Dead?"

Samara shook her head. "Had to use a smoke-grenade. The other one froze."

Michonne didn't look happy and Samara was of the same mind, but they couldn't afford it. The marshal hadn't wanted to leave any witnesses of their existence behind, but pressing matters called them back to their hideout. The sun was about two hours from setting and they couldn't get caught outside in the dark.

Both women jumped in alarm as a gunshot echoed into the silence of the world. Like statues they remained unmoving, listening and observing for any changes.

Minutes passed and no man came out of the woods, guns blazing. Whatever happened to the two men will remain a mystery as both women disappeared into the black and white forest, never to return.


 

Samara and Michonne slipped unnoticed through the group of undead.

The town where they had sought shelter was a remote place and until now had been a quiet one, but for the past two weeks, more and more walkers had started to show up. This alerted the women that they would have to leave soon lest they be overrun.

–But there was one obstacle.

The two women reached a meat and butcher shop called 'Sportsman's Deer Cooler' and quietly opened the front door. Michonne was first to go in then Samara after a last perusal around.

There was no indication that anyone alive lived in this small country town and the women preferred it this way. They made sure that if anyone was stupid or crazy enough to want to step on their territory, they wouldn't be alerted by their presence and as such the shop appeared abandoned.

Inside, Samara and Michonne stepped into the front room which also served as the two armless walkers spot. They stirred to attention once fresh meat passed their way, but except for watching and swaying on their feet they took no further action.

Michonne went through a door on the right where the shop's defunct meat freezer served as their sleeping area while Samara stayed behind as she ventured a bit further from Michonne's two 'friends'. Even knowing that they posed no threat, Samara still couldn't stand them. Throwing the backpack onto one of the butcher tables, she started to inspect her findings—some canned food, four bottles of water and a few powerbars. The backpack on Michonne's back contained the same with just one important addition, medicine. Medicine they desperately needed for Andrea's pneumonia.

It had been a tough winter, much rougher than Samara had expected so down south. A chill and maybe a few snowflakes, not foot deep in snow and below zero degrees, and now one of them had gotten sick. Severely enough that they had to run ten kilometers to a nearby town where an undersized clinic was located. The clinic had been in disarray with upturned furniture, pills bottles and boxes thrown off the rafters and trampled upon.

With a sigh, Samara brushed the leaves and dirt off her dark grey Confederate greatcoat. Even inside, the women couldn't take off their outdoor clothes as the chill crept in everywhere. They had started a fire several times inside the building, but stopped after they almost burned down the building.

Taking the pair of dark rounded sunglasses off, Samara placed them atop Maggie's cowboy hat. The lower-face skeleton mask that the marshal had found several months ago was still in one piece as she tugged it off along with an over-sized scarf of the darkest shade of red. Her clothes were all dark in color, but warm for winter, complete with black army boots and leather gloves.

Looking at the gloves now, Samara grimaced as tiny bits of walker flesh still clung to them. She had had the honor of holding the walkers while Michonne chopped them up. With disgust, the marshal wiped the gloves on a frozen piece of cloth that had once been an apron.

Picking up the backpack, the marshal headed to check up on her sick friend, but froze when she saw no sign of the two women. With her machete out, the marshal quickened to the backroom where the garage door was.

If Andrea is dead—

Pushing the door aside, she found Michonne crouched over a barely conscious Andrea.

"How is she?"

"Worse." The dark woman said as she helped the blonde take small sips of water. "She's burning up and shivering."

"Why did she crawl here?" Samara watched in worry as cold sweat poured down Andrea's even paler skin.

"Said she was following Amy."

The Native cursed as she massaged her worry lines away. Andrea was not in her right mind as the fever had spiked dangerously after they left hours ago. She was in a really perilous situation.

"Come on. Let's take her back."

Michonne took hold of Andrea's arm while Samara grabbed the other. Physically dragging the blonde as she mumbled dazedly was torture for both women. Having to see her like this never got better. Back in the meat locker, Michonne tucked the blonde back in her makeshift bed.

"We need to slip the IV in."

Samara took it as her cue in finding a vein on Andrea's arm. It didn't take long as the blonde's sickly paleness made most of her veins visible. Tapping on a fat one, she waited for Michonne to hang the liquid antibiotics bag and hand her over the needle. Slipping it gently, Samara placed a stretch of ducktape to keep it in place and with Michonne's help, covered Andrea in enough blankets to smother her.

"Michonne, if the antibiotics don't work…You understand what we'll have to do."

"I know."

The sharp and brisk answer was enough to convey the sword-wielder's opinion of this sensitive subject.

"I hope it works." Samara spoke softly.

Andrea had been sick for the past two weeks. They hadn't given it much thought at first, chalking it up to a common cold, but as time passed, the coughing got worse, she ate less and slept more, and soon the fever hit—from there it went downhill rather quickly.

Looking at her companion, Samara knew that this must be harder for her than for herself. Michonne had gotten fairly attached to Andrea over these past few months and Samara was pretty sure some of those feelings ventured past just friendship.

"Michonne…This is the second time in a month we encountered that guy with the metal hand."

Looking deeply into Samara's eyes, Michonne realized her train of thought. "You think they're looking for us."

"If they hadn't then, they will now."

Michonne nodded as she knew those men will want retaliation for the deaths they had caused. She just knew what the marshal was thinking right now: they needed to leave. Looking at Andrea, the sword-wielder knew that if they moved right now, the blonde wouldn't make it.

"How long will it take for her to get better?"

"Your guess is as good as mine."

The truth was Samara wasn't even sure Andrea was going to live through the night. She needed a hospital, not two women who guided themselves by simple knowledge—you get sick, antibiotics cure all.

They were playing with fire.


 

Shiver.

Samara wrapped a fluffy blanket tightly around her as she sat on a green lawn chair with her feet propped on the roof ledge, watching the activity below. There was a military issued sniper rifle resting in her lap and a small flask of hot coffee mixed with whisky in the inner breast pocket of her coat. Samara had opted to sit in a light snowstorm rather than remain around the sickly Andrea. The thought that the woman could die at any moment's notice had the Native withdraw into the cold.

It was an unpleasant feeling, this waiting game. Every time the blonde coughed or her breath hitched, it sent both women into a state of panic, fearing it was her last. Despite her jaded outlook, Samara had never been able to watch those close to her slowly wither and die. She couldn't understand how Michonne could and for that respected her immensely. The woman had a hide tougher than hers…or she was just better at masking it.

The still screech of metal brought Samara out of her brooding state. There was a small door that accessed the roof via a rickety ladder and, lo and behold, Michonne was coming to greet her.

Samara waited for her to take a seat on the roof ledge and enjoy the relaxing view ahead.

Neither of the two women spoke as they stared out into the darkness, the walkers barely made visible by the pure white moon. The snowflakes were also a good touch as they made everything seem otherworldly.

"Enjoying yourself up here?"

Samara snorted. "I'm freezing my tits off, what do you think?"

Michonne smirked for a fraction of a second before settling into her neutral front. "Anything interesting?"

"If by interesting you mean more and more walkers each day, then yes, this is turning out to be a most interesting night."

The sword-wielder sighed quietly exasperated as she knew where Samara's words were headed—the same direction she went yesterday and the day before.

"We can't move, not now."

"When, Michonne? When we get overrun?" Samara frowned as she glared sideways. "You know they're coming after us. It's only a matter of time until this whole town is filled with walkers. We have to be one step ahead of them, always."

The sword-wielder frowned darkly as she looked at the walkers below. A week tops and the town's population will be back to its normal numbers, but if they moved Andrea before she got even a little bit better, it would spell her doom.

—And Michonne couldn't have that.

"When Andrea's fever lowers, we leave."

Samara leaned back in her chair defeated. Just like her, Michonne was very stubborn, so trying to change her mind was like talking to a brick wall—useless and frustrating. The marshal wondered if this is how the Kentucky sheriff felt whenever she refused to go along with his choices.

Most probably…

"There's a car I hid in an auto-garage shop a few streets away. At that time, I thought it would be better to be prepared than leave it on the last second." The marshal then turned to Michonne with a pointed look. "If we use the car that means we're not taking your 'boyfriends' with us."

Their stink had gotten embedded in her skin so badly that it didn't even matter if she bathed once a week, it still clung to her like a second shadow. The dark woman looked like she wanted to object, but pursed her lips instead. Whatever attachment she had to those two undead men, she needed to disregard it. Samara wouldn't tolerate them anymore.

The Native sighed despondently. In a few days they'll be on the road again. Their stay here had been their longest and she wasn't sure they'll be able to find another safe enough place this far into winter.

Gods, I wish spring would just arrive already.

She needed heat and warmth. The marshal was Arizona born and bred, where the sun roasted you until your skin blistered. She would rather pant and sweat under the scorching sun than live in this bitter cold. The cool mood she was in soured almost immediately. The thought of summer always brought out memories of Hershel's farm and, subsequently, the Atlanta group.

Four months have passed since they parted ways and she still remembered that night with bitter resentment. Samara had tried getting past it and sometimes she succeeded, but most of the time she was left angry and with the furious urge to hit something.

Exhaling loudly, Samara took a swing out of her flask. She cringed as the sharp tang of Irish whiskey hit her taste buds. Ever since she quit smoking, the marshal supplied her nicotine habit with alcohol whenever she was lucky enough to find some. Not the wisest of ideas, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to care anymore. Life kept kicking her down at every turn and she was starting to get fed up. Samara desperately needed a break from everything. The constant vigilance, having to take care of the other two women, lack of food, suspicion and making decisions that hopefully won't get them all killed had left her in a state of extreme fatigue.

The worst part was that Samara couldn't just leave it all behind and run…Actually, she could, but she didn't want to. She cared about Andrea and Michonne too much to just leave them behind. They were her only companions and they had fought side by side and saved each other's asses on more than one account.

—Samara would give her life for either of them.

"Remembering different times?"

Michonne's deep voice broke through Samara's forlorn thoughts.

"Something like that." Samara passed the flask and watched as Michonne downed a healthy dose. The grimace that followed had the Native snickering in amusement.

"I thought this was coffee." Michonne spat the bitterness on the white snow.

"It is, only with whiskey."

"You shouldn't drink." The disapproving frown had the fun swiftly disappear from the situation.

"There was only a little bit left in the bottle. Not enough to get tipsy on."

"Doesn't matter." Michonne then did the unthinkable. She poured the contents of the flask over the edge of the roof.

Quickly, Samara reached for it to stop the precious liquid from getting wasted, but Michonne was quicker. She moved the flask out of the Native's reach until there were only a few drops left and then, callously, threw the flask into the darkness.

"Godddammit, Michonne!"

Samara stood up as she heard the faint clank of metal hit the pavement. With a glare, she turned on the dark woman more than ready to pounce on her, claws out. "Why the hell did you do that?!"

"You know why." Michonne tensed, ready for any kind of violence from the marshal. It wouldn't be the first time they had to tussle.

As the Native was about to unleash a tirade, a sudden pain sparked up her back all the way up to her brain, cutting the words right out of her mouth. Samara bent over herself, her teeth sinking into her lip to stop the screams from coming out.

Michonne simply watched ever vigilant in case it got worse. She had gotten used to witnessing these episodes and while she hated the situation, there was nothing she could do to ameliorate the pain.

With shaky fingers, Samara reached inside her coat and brought out the orange container. Popping two pills into her mouth, she crushed them with urgent fervor, ready to be rid of the horrible ache.

Deep, deep breaths.

Slowly, the marshal lowered herself back onto the lawn chair. Every move inflicted on her spine had Samara wanting to climb the walls and wail at the moon. She passionately prayed for relief, for the pills to kick in and spare her this horrid ache. Even after so long, it still hurt like the first time and there was no end in sight any time soon.

A lack of feeling soon enveloped her and Samara welcomed the mind-numbing effect as she felt her limbs go heavy and her eyes droopy.

"Hey…" Samara felt someone shake her arm gently. "You alright now?"

Half-lidded eyes gazed at Michonne with barely any life. The dark woman sighed as she shook her head.

"You shouldn't have taken two."

Samara knew that, but they weren't in any immediate danger and she wanted to feel better.

"And then you wonder why I don't want you drinking."

The Native snorted sarcastically as she threw a wide, mocking grin her companion's way. "Because they'll fuck with my head."

A slap strong enough to wipe the smile off the marshal's face was Michonne's answer. The sword-wielder got into Samara's face, caging her in with barely contained fury.

"I'll tolerate you doping up because I know you have good reasons to, but I won't accept you mixing pills with booze."

Michonne's guttural growl brought back some linear consciousness. Staring into those bottomless coffee pools, Samara could almost see the steel inside them and behind that fortification, the concern she constantly carried like a lingering ghost.

"Fine. Have it your way, Michonne."

The woman sat back onto the edge with a small huff. She kept her gaze ahead, too worked up to look at the marshal right now.

The silence stretched on between them. It wasn't awkward or unwelcome, just a steady one. One needed after their passive aggressive confrontation. It happened every now and then for the two women to butt heads and in the post-heat they would either stew in their anger or sit quietly, letting their minds wander.

"You know what day is today?"

Michonne gazed at the marshal from the corner of her eyes with only a slip of curiosity. "I lost count some time ago. It's just seasons for me."

"It's New Year's Eve."

"So?"

The disinterest Michonne showed had Samara pout. "Just saying…"

"You never just say."

Samara gazed past Michonne with something akin to defeat. Now, the sword-wielder's interest piqued as she rarely got to see the marshal so dejected.

"Do you think they'll ever die out?" There was a sense of finiteness to her words. "Your pets have been with you for what? Six-seven months? They haven't eaten any flesh since you cut jaws off and they still function. I thought that maybe winter would kill them off, not send them in this strange sort of hibernation."

"It just made them weaker and slower." Michonne shrugged. "Nothing much has changed."

Samara sighed. At least Michonne didn't dwell on things for long. She just acknowledged them and moved on…At least on the surface.

"Yeah, we're still fucked." Samara settled back into her chair desponded. The fog had lifted from her eyes during their talk and now she had a relatively good sight. It was the same. Walkers remained stationery and the snow kept falling from the sky.

So…This is how the world will be from now on, huh?

The corner of her lips weighted down as melancholy took over.

"Stop it." There was a stern look about Michonne."Wherever your mind is wandering right now, it's making you look depressed. Get it out of your head. We don't have time for self-pity or what if's."

A small grin lit up the Native's face. Michonne always could read her like a book and then bring her back with her feet to the ground.

Raising her chin, Samara closed her eyes as snowflakes touched her hot skin. The contrast of hot and cold made her body tingle pleasantly. The Native sighed in delight as she felt the melted flakes roll off her face and down her neck.

"I always hated winter. I'm more of a spring type of girl. Warm weather, not too hot or too cold. Just right."

A snort.

"Want me to braid your hair with flowers come spring?"

"Fuck off." Samara chuckled in good nature as she blew off her companion.

The marshal's laughter must have hit a cord in the ever grave Michonne as a smile cracked her sternly aligned lips.

"My daughters loved winter." Michonne wrapped her jacket more tightly around her. "Snowmen, snowball fights, Christmas and presents. I hated shoveling the snow. That was a bitch."

Samara tenderly smiled as the past flew before her eyes.

"My husband loved Christmas. He always exaggerated when it came to decorating. Every Christmas our house looked like it came straight out of Whoville. He was like a kid during that time of the year. I was never that enthusiastic." The smile faded as reality seeped in. "I just wish…"

"Yeah, I know." Michonne's voice lowered as she gazed into the faraway moon.

Silence pervaded, each locked in their own thoughts, but surprisingly, Samara wasn't thinking about the past, but the future.

"Hey…You got any New Year's resolutions?"

The dead look Michonne gave her could crack stone. "Sure…survive till next year."

"That's a good one." Samara nodded, unexpectedly serious. "I might write it on my list."

"You do that." That seemed to be the end of the conversation as Michonne picked her up by the arm and pulled her to her feet. "Come on. You stay out here, you'll freeze to death."

Samara grumbled in displeasure, but nonetheless followed Michonne's lead as she slowly picked up her rifle. Straightening out, the marshal heard Michonne's deep, mellow voice carried out by the night air.

"Happy New Year, Samara."

A genuine smile stretched the Native's lips.

"Happy New Year, Michonne."


 

A callous thumb brushed over Samara's face immortalized into the photo.

A tired sigh.

How many times had he done this? The same exact movements whenever the two pictures where in his hands? Always gazing or touching the contours of her face. How many times had he studied the photos either because he was bored or because, later, he seemed genuinely interested?

—When did this obsession even begin?

Daryl breathed in deeply as the Indian's frozen smile stared back at him. Four months have passed since that disastrous night at the farm and Daryl still felt guilt at times for not doing anything to prevent her death. It was irrational since nobody could have done anything if they had been in his position, but he still felt like what he'd done or hadn't was sin.

It's because of these damn pictures!

Furiously, Daryl clenched them in his hands, rumpling them up further. If it weren't for these photos he wouldn't be so obsessed over a dead woman. He would have forgotten her with time and moved on with his life, but now he was stuck in this limbo.

He had gotten rid of them several times only for him to pick them back up. The hunter even threw them in a fire only to burn his hands trying to extinguish them. No matter what he did, Daryl always ended up with the photos back in his pocket.

At times, he seriously believed the Indian had put a curse on him in her dying moments—never let him have rest just to have the last laugh.

"Daryl."

Startled, the hunter turned with lightning speed, knife in hand and ready to use.

Alas, it was only Rick, who immediately backed away once he saw the shiny edge of the knife, one hand on his own machete reflexively. Daryl sighed as he sheathed his weapon and stared sternly at the sheriff.

"What?" He huffed in annoyance, more at himself that he got so distracted that he didn't even notice the man walk up to him. This was one of the other little problems that the pictures brought—his whole attention. "What is it?"

The light in the man's eyes after so many months of despondency instantly caught the hunter's interest. What happened that made Grimes happy?

"Come on."

The man broke out into a light run. Daryl straightened out the disheveled photos before he could pocket them in his pants. At the back of his head, Daryl thanked everything holy that Rick hadn't noticed the pictures. He had taken painful steps to insure nobody saw them as it would arise a barrage of question that Daryl had no idea how to answer.

Picking up speed, Daryl ran alongside his companion as they stepped over an old railway, barely visible in the snow. Running alongside it they reached a clearing where the trees and bushes were sparse and he saw what the Kentucky man had gotten so animated over.

"Shit."

—It was a prison.

Daryl couldn't believe it. All this time they had been circling this place without ever knowing of its existence. When you're concentrated only on survival, the horse blinders come up and you couldn't see the bigger picture.

There were two rows of high chain fences that seemed to be very sturdy, enough yard space for hundreds of people, not to mention a high security building that probably still had plenty of supplies, but there was only one problem—

Walkers.

Fat too many of them.

If it hadn't been for their presence, the prison would have been an ideal place to live in. For them to finally settle down and breathe without the burden of watching their backs at every turn. Of living in fear that their next breath would be their last.

However, looking at the sheriff, Daryl realized that his train of thought was on the same wavelength as his. The only exception was that Rick was bold and crazy enough to attempt to storm and conquer it.

Oh hell…

And judging by the small smile that was lighting up his face, Daryl just knew that that was in the near future.

Chapter Text

Gasp.

Samara jumped into a sitting position with such speed that she almost got whiplash.

Everything was cold. Her whole body was covered in icy sweat, creeping over her skin like worms. Covering her face, the Native tried to regain her breathing as it heaved out of control.

Another nightmare.

Ever since she abruptly left the farm, Samara had been plagued with nightmares. That is, when she began sleeping again. The first week, Samara had been in the worst state of insomnia of her life. Just the act of closing her eyes brought her back beneath those two walkers—the sounds, the sights, the smells, everything came back in a blink of an eye, spiraling her down into a state of panic. She didn't even want to remember the first few weeks—waking up screaming with tears pouring down her face had been the most horrible nights of her life. The nightmares had dwindled over the last months, only one or two per week but that didn't make it better.

"How bad was it?"

Bleary eyed, the marshal found Michonne crouched next to Andrea's bed, frowning worriedly at the Native.

"Pretty bad." Samara croaked as she swung her legs over the side of the mattress and held her still heavy head in her hands. "How's Andrea?"

The ghost of a smile passed the woman's lips as her gaze returned to the blonde. "The fever is almost gone."

Samara felt a wave of relief wash over her. Andrea was going to be alright. She will survive.

—This was probably the greatest news she'd had in months.

"Also, the storm's passed."

After that night on the rooftop, a heavy snowstorm had washed over Georgia bringing the Native's plans to a halt. Two days it had snowed, covering everything in pearly white. The two women had had to mildly starve themselves, opting to give the majority of their supplies to Andrea who needed them the most.

—It was a small price to pay for the recovery of their friend.

With a groan, the marshal lifted herself off the mattress and lost herself into her daily morning routine. Half an hour later, Samara was relatively fresh and ready for a new day. There were long hours ahead awaiting her and she needed to be more than ready.

Stepping into the front of the shop, Samara came face to face with Michonne who was meticulously sharpening her blade. The clear sound of whetstone sliding against metal filled the deathly silence.

"You're heading out." There was no questioning tone to Michonne's voice, simply stating. As always.

"Yeah." Samara arranged the mask over the lower half of her face. "We need that car, Michonne."

A definitive nod. The sword-wielder knew.

"Are you taking one of them?"

"They'll just slow me down." If Mike and Terry hadn't proved useful, Samara would have cut them to pieces a long time ago. The marshal really detested having them around—like stepping in dog shit and the smell staying with you even after you wiped it off.

"I'll be back in a few hours."

Michonne nodded, her hands never breaking stride. The only change was those sharp eyes that followed the marshal until she was out the door.


 

Behind dark spectacles, olive eyes darted to every shady corner, every unmoving walker. No matter how deceptively quiet it was, there was always the possibility of some danger waiting around the corner.

Like a shadow Samara prowled the empty, snow-covered streets. She knew this small town like the back of her hand. Since they arrived here in November, the marshal had done nothing but pillage every building and car in sight. Everything useful that she had found had been depleted three weeks ago, prompting them to venture outside their safe area which eventually led to meeting metal-hand guy and his cohorts.

It had been inevitable, Samara though. Sooner or later, they had to run into someone just as desperate as they were. The Native just thanked her gods that they made it out alive and in one piece.

There was a harsh wind in the air. Something deep underneath her skin told Samara it was time to leave. Maybe it was her old paranoia or maybe there was some truth to her gut feeling, Samara didn't know. What she did know was that whenever these fears came about, it was a good idea to listen. She will never make a repeat of the farm incident again.

Samara stopped near the exit of the alleyway. She had reached the main road of the town and she knew that from here, she had to go past several shops until she reached the auto-repair garage where the car was waiting.

There were only a few walkers spread over the road, neither one moving. They were in hibernating mode and Samara knew that they usually remained that way even if she was just a foot apart.

Keeping to the buildings, Samara traveled further up the road. One eye on the walkers and the other on everything else.

Clank!

Samara swiftly ducked into the front door alcove of a store. The sound was reminiscent of rocks either falling or being kicked. With heavy, slow breaths she peeked over the side of the alcove. The walkers had stirred, looking around for the source of the sound, but once they found nothing they returned to their slumber.

The Native's heart pounded strongly against her chest. Whoever made that sound hadn't been a walker.

Rumble. Crack.

Narrow eyed, Samara aimed her gun in the direction from where the sound came and, immediately, felt like an idiot.

—It was ice.

Ice breaking from the roof of the buildings and cracking on the frozen pavement.

With an eye-roll, Samara holstered her weapon and continued on her way. Even knowing what had caused the sound, she still felt uneasy. Uneasy enough that she kept glancing back, expecting a surprise attack.

Something doesn't feel right.

Reaching the garage, the marshal entered the fenced building through the front door. The place was frozen in time with pieces of furniture, papers and other objects usually found in offices scattered messily. Majestic webs hung from the walls, a sanctuary for spiders and a death-trap for critters.

Without grace, Samara slashed through the webs with her machete. They were between her and the door to the garage—a hindrance.

Inside the building, she found the car exactly as she left it. Now, the problem was getting that garage door to open and starting the engine. No doubt the cold had frozen solid the metal to the ground, and as for the car, Samara hoped the battery hadn't died since she last turned it on.

With a huff, the marshal picked up a crowbar and headed straight for the door to try and break the ice formed around the bottom. Preparing for a swing, Samara raised the crowbar high—

Bump.

Wood falling down.

"Shit!"

Samara froze.

—Someone really was here.

"Quiet, you dumbass!" A male voice hissed acidic.

Shit, there's more than one!

Samara swiftly ducked behind the car, her heart pounding inside her chest. She kept her ears sharp and her grip on the crowbar just a little more tightly.

"Do you think she heard us?"

"If she did it's because of you, dumbass."

"Stop callin' me that!"

Samara cursed lowly under her breath as she bit her lip. How the hell did they find her? It wasn't like she had just strolled down the street leisurely while whistling a jolly tune.

The street…

The sounds back on the main road and the strange feeling she got—had it been them?

Samara's breath hitched. The voices were getting closer.

Quickly, the woman crawled underneath the car and took her handguns out, aiming them at the door.

Two pairs of boots entered the garage.

The men's attempts at being quiet were laughable at best. They walked around the car, each on one side and Samara had to silently turn on her back to keep them in sight, her guns aimed and ready to blow their Achilles tendons to kingdom come.

They walked around the entire garage, even tried to open the car without avail. A frustrated sigh escaped one of the men.

"She's not here."

"Maybe she left through a back door?"

"Where the fuck would she go?!"

"How the hell should I know!"

The sweat poured down Samara's temple as the men's exchange became heated. They started arguing and the marshal felt like just shooting them for all the useless noise they were making.

One of them cursed as he paced back and forth. "He ain't gonna like this. We were supposed to capture her."

Samara's teeth clenched painfully.

"You think I don't know that?" The other pair of boots then walked towards the door. "Dammit, come on. Let's check the backdoor."

As their steps got further and further away, Samara's heart slowed until it returned to normal. She wasn't out of danger yet—the two men were still inside the building. Samara got out from beneath the car and sheathed her two guns so she could pull out her silenced one instead.

Who were they? Who was this man that wanted her captured? How the hell did they even know she was in this town?

Wait…

Did they know about Michonne and Andrea?

Fuck!

She needed to know more. She needed to know what she was dealing with.

Her steps were silent as she tracked the two men down. The backdoor was not far from the garage—she just had to step in the web room then enter a door on the left, cross a long hallway and at the end, the backyard. The problem was the two rooms on the left side of the hallway. They could be in either of them, waiting, for all she knew.

As she walked the hallway, each door was closed and silent and only the backdoor was open. Reaching the exit, she narrowed her eyes as the bright light of noon assaulted her. One of them was present in the backyard, atop a crate near the fence, overlooking everything outside.

Throwing a glance behind her, Samara saw no sign of the other man and proceeded to approach the one in front with a knife in hand, forgoing the gun.

—She needed to do this quick and clean.

"Man, I can't see her. We should go back and tell Mer—"

The man's words died in his throat as Samara covered his mouth and plunged her knife deep into the back of his skull, right through his brain. He struggled for a second as Samara kept him upright until his movements abruptly ceased.

Samara sighed thankfully. This kill had gone down quietly and without fuss.

The second she was about to throw the body to the ground was when the other man decided to check on his companion.

"Hey, dumbass. Did you—"

The man froze as he came upon the woman he had been looking for holding the unmoving body of his friend.

A heartbeat.

Both eyed each other with their breaths held. Samara could see now that he was a total contradiction to his dead companion. While the one in her arms was bordering on skinny and white, the other was black and full of muscles.

Samara swallowed thickly. She knew just by looking at him that a physical confrontation between them will not end in her victory.

As Samara saw his hand twitch in waking consciousness, she quickly took her silenced gun out and pulled the trigger.

The man yelled in pain as the bullet hit him in the shoulder, but he doesn't go down. Samara dropped the body and ran for the fence, ready to jump. Halfway over, she is grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground harshly, her gun dropping somewhere in the snow.

"You bitch!" The man growled furiously. "You shot me!"

The man kicked Samara in the stomach making bile rise to her throat. She curled in on herself, defending herself from the onslaught as her hand conspicuously reached her feet and pulled a short knife out of her boot. She stabbed the man's foot making him howl in pain. Straining herself, Samara spat blood as she rose to her knees and reached for one of her other guns only to get dragged back by the man.

Turning around, she felt the man sit on her thighs so she wouldn't kick out and wretched the gun out her hand. With her hands free, she wasted no time in wrapping them into tight fists and punching him in his face. To her horror, it didn't even faze him.

What the hell is he made out of?!

Her angry train of thought stopped with a sputter as cold fingers wrapped around her neck.

"I won't kill you, bitch." The man glowered, his teeth showing. "Just choke you long enough to pass out."

Samara didn't try to pry his hands off since it would've been a wasted effort against his beefy arms. Instead, she opted to strike the man's nose with the heel of her palm. The man wavered as he felt his nose lightly relocate into his brain, and in retaliation his grip tightened to cut off all oxygen.

Alarmed at her diming consciousness, Samara did the only thing her clouded mind could conjure in the moment and stuck her thumb into his eye. With a pained howl, the man let go of her in favor of his now bleeding organ. Samara wasted no time and delivered a strong knee to his groin. Cursing loudly, the man crouched over himself holding his privates.

Even as she was coughing and choking on spit and blood, Samara used what little energy she had left and jumped the man's back, her lean legs coiling around his arms and trapping them as her arms crawled around his throat in a chokehold.

Fucker, you're not the only one who knows how to strangle someone, Samara thought bloodthirstily as she increased the pressure.

The man threw his elbows into her sides, but Samara held on tight despite the pain. Her strong arms kept applying pressure until the man choked and sputtered saliva.

The marshal's eyes widened wildly.

Inch by inch, the man rose to his feet in an incredible display of persistence. With gasping breaths and bulging eyes, he ran backwards into the building's wall, hoping that the hit would loosen the woman's grip on him. Samara gritted her teeth as her entire body jolted and her back blazed. Her eyes widened in realization that if she didn't do something right now, she would lose the ground she had won and get squashed by this mountain of meat. Summoning all the strength she had left, Samara applied enough pressure in her arms to kill and in that moment, she didn't give a damn if he died.

The man sputtered as his neck veins bulged. To Samara's greatest relief it didn't take long for his eyes to roll upwards and finally pass out. His large body hit the ground with Samara breathing harshly atop him.

In this bitter cold, the woman could see her breath come out in small white clouds. Rolling off the body, she landed on the ground as another wave of pain washed over her back. A slither of blood escaped the corner of her mouth and slid down her cheek, staining the white ground below.

Snowflakes fell harmoniously, nature not in the slightest disturbed by the earlier life and death struggle.

Trembling, Samara searched her inner pockets for her medicine and swallowed one dryly. Despite her exhaustion, the marshal forced herself to rise to her knees and then with heavy arms, pushed herself upwards. She staggered as her legs felt stunted after gripping the man so harshly. Everything in her body hurt and if it hadn't been for her painkillers, she probably wouldn't have been able to move let alone stand.

What now? Should she kill him or make him talk? Normally, she would have bashed his brains out, but this was an exceptional case.

Samara left the man alone as she searched the building for duct tape, a gas tank and some chains. It didn't take long as the garage was practically filled with supplies and Samara got to work with sadistic glee uncharacteristic of her. After making sure every limb was tightly secured, the Native waved an open gas tank underneath the man's nose.

Instantaneously, the man woke up and started coughing as the acidic smell remained stuck in his throat.

"What the—" Between his coughs and watering eyes, the man realized the position he was in and started struggling. "Shit! Untie me!"

"How about no." Samara scoffed as stood beside him, a small red object in her hand.

"Listen to me, you cunt. If you untie me now I promise I'll go easy on you."

Blinking languidly, Samara swiftly opened the red object—which turned out to be a switchblade—and slashed the man's cheek.

"Fu—!"

"Shut the fuck up and listen. You're in no position to order me around, much less insult me. You call me something nasty again and I will cut you deeper and watch you bleed out. You understand?"

The man's nostrils flared in anger and Samara could see the bloodlust swimming in his dark pools. Closing his eyes to placate his strung-up nerves, the man took a deep breath and nodded reluctantly.

"Now…" Samara leaned over herself, her elbows on her knees. "Who the fuck are you and how did you find me?"

"My name's Jackson and Merle was the one that found you."

"Who?"

"The guy you didn't kill, bitch."

A monotone blink.

"Could you narrow it down?"

The man bit his lip in annoyance. His anger was on the verge of erupting and he'd rather not lash out and get cut up again.

It then hit Samara—

There was only one person who could carry such a hick name.

"You mean the metal-hand guy?" Samara's eyes widened as she grimaced. "He's still alive?"

"Yeah. He managed to drive you off after you killed Gargulio, Tim and Crowley."

Samara's brow rose. Did I now? As far as she remembered, she and Michonne managed to kill only two of them and then they heard that gunshot echo throughout the woods.

It seemed the hick decided to kill his friend off. To what means she didn't know.

"Why are you here?"

"You bitches need to answer for our dead."

"Like hell we do. Dog eat dog world, asshole, and your friends just drew the short straw. I don't have to answer for anything."

"Fuck you!" Jackson tried to jump her, forgetting that he was hog tied. He only managed to budge an inch as spit flew in the marshal's direction. "You knew nothin' about them! You killed three good people! You—"

"I don't give a shit about you or your dead friends." Samara flat out said, her tone icier than the cold outside. "You are nothing but obstacles for me. Now…"

The blade shone again as it moved ominously from his face to his crotch. The blade touched the man's covered genitals and applied with enough pressure to stop whatever incoming tirade the man was about to unleash over.

"Where is that metal-hand asshole?"

Despite the threat of losing his manhood, the man smirked vengefully.

"He's after that black bitch."


 

Michonne breathed in deeply as she hid in one of the separate freezers, not much spacious than a kitchen pantry. She was holding Andrea in her arms as she listened to the voices outside.

Dammit, she was in a dangerous spot. Not ten minutes ago she saw from the roof living people slinking through the streets like snakes in high grass. Their plan must have been to remain unnoticed, but Michonne was ever so vigilante.

She had counted three in total and knew, without a doubt, that she was in over her head. If Andrea hadn't been in the sickly state she was currently in then they could have dispatched them. They knew this shop and this town better—they could have easily ambushed or killed them silently.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are."

The sword-wielder's eyes widened.

She knew that voice.

How? How did he find them?

Michonne clenched her teeth until her gums hurt.

If he was here, that meant he was after her and Samara. Andrea was an invisible entity in his eyes.

Michonne let the back of her head hit the wall and closed her eyes in resignation. She knew what she had to do. If she remained in hiding, sooner or later they'll find them and Michonne couldn't let them have the blonde. If there was a chance to spare her friend, she wasn't crazy enough to waste it.

The sword-wielder left the freezer, closing the door with a silent click. In her mind, she said her heartfelt goodbyes to Andrea. If she didn't live through today then she hoped her sacrifice will keep the blonde alive. Silently, the woman opened the garage door that had once been once used for loading and unloading and left the building. Walking alongside the walls she ducked corners, looking through every window for the interlopers. She could see three in the front of the shop, amusing themselves with Mike and Terry. They poked and prodded the two armless walkers, building them up into a passive frenzy. Backtracking to the back door, Michonne entered the building silently.

There was one way she could take the men out—the grenades Samara had stored near her bed. Thank god the marshal was gun crazy enough to hoard enough ammunition to destroy a town. Two months ago they had found an army barricade and Samara had been adamant in ransacking it. Michonne had been against it as she saw no point in carrying so many weapons—she survived until now with only a sword—but the marshal wouldn't have it. Andrea had agreed with the Native and so, they had embarked on a lethal expedition into the encampment which almost resulted in the sword-wielder's early demise.

Sniper rifles, automatics and semi-automatics, field supplies, grenades, smoke bombs, bullets, vests—they had taken only as much as they and the two walkers could carry leaving the rest behind for some other lost soul.

Pocketing the grenade and taking an automatic rifle, Michonne moved one of the emergency bags into Andrea's hiding place. Samara had arranged backpacks with some army supplies to last a few days for each of them. Insurance in case they had to run, either together or separately.

—A last gift to the blonde.

Stepping back into the shadows, the sword-wielder headed for the garage door.

One foot outside was all it took for the end of a shotgun to hit her in the face and throw her into darkness.


 

"Wake up, darlin'."

Michonne woke from the dark recesses of her subconscious, confused and with a horrible headache that pulsated heavily from the surface of her temple to the depths of her brain.

What the hell happened?

Bleary-eyed, she looked around as the cogs in her mind began to furiously spin towards present events: she was in the front room of the store on her knees with her hands tied behind her back and someone holding her back upright from behind. Michonne almost wanted to hit herself; she had been caught and stripped of her weapons.

There were five men in the room with her, excluding Mike and Terry—four in front of her and the one at her back. And lo and behold, the metal-hand jackass was crouched right before her, smiling like a devil that had just condemned a poor babe's innocent soul.

"Well, well…" His grin widened smugly. "We meet again, darlin'."

Michonne glared silently.

"Aw, don't look at me like that. Here I thought we were friends." He pouted mockingly before suddenly grabbing a fistful of Michonne's dreads and smashing her face into his knee. Michonne fell to the ground, her nose bleeding. "Oops, sorry about that. My hand slipped."

The dark woman cursed foully inside her head. The bastard just brought a whole new level of pain to her still tender head. She couldn't even see straight as everything spun and was in double.

"Don't you worry your pretty jungle head." The man patted Michonne's head in mock comfort. "Your friend will be joinin' us soon and then the real fun begins."

Samara. They knew where she was. Even if the Native was capable of killing anyone that crossed her path, she still had her limits. It all depended on how many were sent after her, but if the marshal managed to escape then all the better. At least then she and Andrea could live to see another day.

"So tell me, what's the deal with the biters? You two ladies got lonely one day and decided to get yourselves some new boyfriends?"

His cohorts laughed like the sheep they were.

"Careful thought, they bite." He glanced perceptively at their jawless state. "But I think you already knew that."

Michonne kept her mouth shut as he guffawed, only her nostrils flaring in anger.

"Nothin'? Not even a peep?" The man caught Michonne's chin in a vice grip, but she didn't make a peep at the ache. "And here I thought you women love nothin' more than to yap all day. Don't matter none about what."

Hum.

Michonne frowned.

There was a strange sound coming from outside. It was low, barely noticeable through the man's exasperating dribble, but as Michonne strained her scattered brain to focus, it cleared until it resembled a roar.

What the—

For a moment, the dark woman thought that the hit to her skull made her hear things, but the minute the man paused in his verbal diarrhea was when she realized that it wasn't a concussion speaking, but reality.

Something was coming towards them.

The inhabitants of the shop looked apprehensively towards the boarded windows and Michonne swore she could hear a pin drop in the silence of the room. Her heart beat faster and faster and almost did a full stop when it dawned on her what the roar reminded her of.

—A car pushing the motor to its limits.

And said car was heading straight towards them.

Michonne did the only thing her instincts told her to—she threw herself to the wall and flattened against it.

Boom!

The front of the shop burst open, wood and glass exploding everywhere. The men screamed bloody murder as some were hit by the car and thrown backwards and some buried underneath it.

Michonne sputtered and coughed as dirt coated her throat. She was buried underneath the remains of a wooden shelf along with planks from the front wall of the store. Her whole body felt sore as her bones rattled with every move. The woman could hear the men's pain-filled cries not too far from her.

The car engine still roared even as the hood and bumper were almost unrecognizable. Michonne heard the door open.

"Michonne, get to cover!"

Of course…

The dark woman wasted no time as she knew Samara was about to unleash another wave of crazy. Making herself as small as possible, Michonne cursed as the sound of guns cocking resounded.

Snap and recoil. Bullets flew.

Her ears popped as the loud bangs of Samara's guns deafened the destroyed shop. Michonne desperately wanted to cover her ears and give some respite to her sensitive brain, but her hands were, literally, tied.

Some of the injured men had gotten up before Samara pulled the trigger, but they didn't get the time to even pull their guns out as the shop was razed with a shower of bullets. Screams and groans and curses followed as man by man were punctured by the oncoming onslaught. Blood splattered over the destroyed furniture and walls, and one of the bullets flew past Michonne's hip, penetrating the ground.

Shit! Michonne gritted her teeth tightly, hoping that Samara's clips will empty soon. She didn't want her cause of death to be by friendly fire.

Heavy boots ran past her. The sword-wielder peeked underneath her lashes to see the metal-hand guy running into the meat locker, shooting wildly behind him.

He's heading for the garage door! He's escaping!

Click. Click. Click. Samara's guns resounded.

Hurried footsteps approached her and the debris was soon pushed away.

"Michonne!"

The woman in question blinked rapidly as the light of a beautiful winter day hit her eyes. Groaning, she felt Samara drag her out of the wooden pile and cut the plastic cuffs in two.

"You alright?" The marshal looked at the blood on her face anxiously.

"Yeah, just a few scratches." Massaging her raw wrists, Michonne picked herself up on wobbly feet.

Christ…

Only now did the sword-wielder realize the utter destruction the other woman had caused. The shop was barely even recognizable anymore and as she predicted, the men were dead along with Terry and Mike. Some of the living were in an even worse state than the jawless walkers, making the dark woman grimace in disgust.

"The asshole with the hand…He escaped."

"I saw." Samara growled as she looked down to her left arm from where blood seeped out of a bullet graze. "Fuck him. We're not sticking around here any longer for him to find us again."

Groan.

A walker shuffled slowly by the car. Reloading one of her guns, Samara shot it in the head. The sound caused a chain reaction—several guttural groans resounded and the women's skin prickled with dread. Running over to the front of the store they witnessed the scene they had feared from day one camping in this town.

Every walker in town was heading straight towards them.

"Get Andrea and let's get the fuck out of here!"

Not needing to be told twice, Michonne picked up her katana from one of the men's clutches and ran back to the meat freezer. With her heart in her throat, Michonne opened the heavy door and found Andrea in the exact same position as she left her. Picking up the IV bag, Michonne slid the emergency backpack over her shoulders and picked Andrea up bridal style. Straining with the effort, she left the freezer and came upon the gun bags.

What now?

The blonde and marshal needed them and there had been times where so much firepower had saved their skin, but they were too heavy and she had no more free hands left.

"Michonne! Hurry up!"

Fuck it.

Leaving the bags behind, Michonne ran to the front and saw Samara dangerously close to being overwhelmed as even the extra guns from the men wasn't enough to stop the onslaught.

Breathing heavily, Michonne got to the backseat door as Samara provided cover. Arranging Andrea as best as she could over the seats, the sword-wielder left the IV bag in the woman's lap and threw the backpack at the footrest before climbing the front passenger side.

Samara ran to the driver's side as the numbers of walkers overwhelmed her remaining bullets. A walker extended its clawed hands, blocking her way to the door and Samara kicked it in its stomach, spreading the bastard all over the snowy asphalt. With no further interruption, Samara hoped inside and immediately started the car.

—The engine rumbled and died.

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me…" Wide-eyed, Samara turned the key once again and the engine kept sputtering. "Start! Start!"

"Samara…" Michonne hissed as a walker banged on the backseat window. "Start the damn car."

"What do you think I'm trying to do?!" Cold sweat poured down her forehead as she kept turning the key. "Come on…Come on…Don't do this."

The car started rocking as more and more walkers started banging against the vehicle. They really wanted to get in and Michonne didn't know from where they gathered the energy for it. Not an hour ago they didn't even blink when you passed them by and now, they scratched and clawed at anything to reach fresh meat just like the ravenous cannibals they were.

"Dammit!" Samara hit the steering wheel in anger. "Start!"

And it did. The engine came alive instead of dying, steadily rumbling.

Both women looked at each other perplexed, but the sudden crack in the car door window had them back with their feet on the ground. The walkers had started throwing themselves at the car in a frenzy and one managed to fissure the backseat window.

Throwing the car in high gear, Samara backed out of the destroyed shop, crushing debris and human remains as she went. The car jumped up and down as they ran over walkers in their haste and once they were a distance away, Samara pressed the peddle until she thought she would break it, sending the car into the stratosphere.

Second by second they put as much distance between themselves and the walkers, but as further as they went the problems began. As the roads had been left unattended, ice spread all over the asphalt making it slippery and the Jeep had no winter tires to withstand them.

"Fuck!"

Samara cursed as the Jeep swerved dangerously and she turned the steering wheel from left to right, doing everything to keep the car from veering off the road and into a tree. Michonne held tightly onto her seat as she was thrown around the passenger side, hitting her body against everything. Looking back, there was nothing she could do about Andrea who was rocked off the seat into the footrests, leaving her in an awkward position over the backpack. A pained groan was the blonde's response.

"Stop the car, Samara!"

Hitting the brakes, Michonne and Samara almost flew through the windshield from the force of their stop. Even holding onto the steering wheel and dashboard didn't help them from sustaining some injuries as Samara's nose collided with the wheel and Michonne's head with the side window.

The car skirted in every direction, turning like a spinning top before stopping altogether.

Michonne breathed heavily as she unclenched her fingers from the dash. Samara wasn't in any different shape as she held onto the steering wheel with white knuckles, bleed trickling down her nose. Except for their harsh breaths and their pumped up hearts, nothing else could be heard in the car.

"Holy shit…"

Michonne agreed wholeheartedly as she and Samara basked in the awed aftermath. Both women were bruised and cut with injuries appearing with each minute they moved forward, but the only important thing was that they were alive.

Averting her attention to the blonde in the back, Michonne found her still at the footrest. Whatever moment of consciousness Andrea had was gone as she once again lay dormant. The sword-wielder gathered her strength to relocate in the backseat and arrange her friend into a more comfortable position when cold fingers wrapped tightly around her bicep. With a questioning frown directed at the marshal, Michonne blanched at the wide-eyed, slack-jawed face the Native made.

Following her line of sight to the side window, Michonne understood the reason for the marshal's trepidation.

There was a car speeding towards them with no intention of stopping.

It was him.

"Go!" Michonne demanded, forgetting about Andrea.

Again, Samara hit the gears into high-speed making the tires screech horrendously. The damaged vehicle darted forward, still wobbly on the patches of ice.

"Can't this car go any faster?"

"Considering that I wrecked most of the front and some of the engine parts…No."

The sword-wielder glared as she observed the other car's progress. It was getting closer.

"Hold on!" Michonne shouted just as their Jeep was pushed from behind.

Samara cursed as the bastard kept trying to ram them off the road. She could barely control the car with the added pressure, not to mention that she had to be careful with random ice patches. Throw that combination in and Samara felt her stomach collapsing out of her ass every time she hit one.

There was no way they could outrun him. Their car was close to being entirely totaled and if the metal-hand bastard kept pushing, then they could say goodbye to their lives. Samara knew too well that at this point he had no other thought than their slow, painful deaths.

"Michonne." Samara gritted her teeth as she again avoided the man's front bumper. "Get my guns and shoot the bastard until he's dead."

Upholstering all four guns that the marshal had on her, Michonne counted the clips left. Four and a half.

Loading the handguns, the dark woman pushed the button to open the roof window and stuck her upper body through it.

Bang!

The first bullet hit the pavement.

Clenching her teeth against the bitter wind, Michonne focused and pulled the trigger. Realizing what the woman was doing, the metal hand guy swerved his car left and right to avoid the bullet's trajectories. A cat and mouse chase ensued as the hick gave them no leeway in his pursuit and Michonne shot parts of his car not important enough to stop.

The sword-wielder felt a tug on her jacket. Wriggling back inside the car, she saw the iron expression on the marshal's face.

"Put your seatbelt on."

Michonne knew that look. It was the 'I'm-about-to-do-something-you-will-hate' look.

"Samara…"

"I'm going to stop this fucker even if I have to wreck this car."

"What about Andrea?"

"She's safe where she is."

With a curse, Michonne clicked the seatbelt on and held onto anything in range. Samara kept glancing in the rearview mirror, waiting like a panther for the right moment to strike.

Michonne could hear the car behind them getting closer with added speed.

A foot separated them.

Stomp!

The Jeep's tires wailed like banshee's in the night as Samara slammed the brake as hard as she could. The man, having no notion of Samara's action, had no time to brake and so, rammed headfirst in the women's Jeep.

Michonne felt herself lifted from her seat as she was thrown around mercilessly in the car. The window shield behind them shattered, spraying glass everywhere and the trunk of the car was sunken in moving the back seat a little to the front, effectively squishing Andrea in between.

Once Samara recuperated from her daze, she switched the gears to backpedal into the car behind.

"Now! Shoot him now!"

Michonne wasted no time as she ripped the belt from her body and climbed out through the roof window. The car behind began to reverse drive to get away from the onslaught, but its motor sputtering in defect. The sword-wielder pulled the trigger as many times as she could, hitting the hood, the exposed engine, the window shield but the car kept going even as light smoke escaped the engine, changing direction to avoid the larger Jeep.

Beyond enraged, Michonne changed direction to the tires. The moment the car swerved right was when they got their lucky break—the bullet punctured the front tire.

The car swerved out of control as the driver tried to regain the steering wheel, but it was in vain. The car veered in every direction until it hit an ice patch and from there the car toppled over, spinning a few times on the pavement.

"Holy fuck!"

Michonne heard the marshal shout in incredulity as she herself was left in wonder at the sight before her. These sorts of things you only saw in movies, never in real life.

The car rolled, wrecking the roof, the doors, everything that hit the pavement until it finally stopped upside-down.

Samara slowed the car down until it fully stopped.

Michonne got back into her seat, her eyes just as wide as the marshal's.

The women shared a glance before gazing back at the totaled car in the middle of the road. They couldn't believe that they just escaped the mad man. Escaped a dire situation that hadn't been in their favor from the start.

"Should we check it?"

"No…" Michonne narrowed her eyes as she wiped the sweat off her brow. "If he's still alive, he'll have little to no chances of getting back to his people alive and if he's dead…let him roam the world as one of them."

"How cruel." Samara smirked with blood painting her lips ruby red. She had no sympathy for the man and ruthless suffering seemed to be the only answer.

"Let's put as much distance as we can." Michonne said as she twisted into the backseat of the car to finally help Andrea.

The marshal nodded as she moved the car forward.


 

Samara kept looking in the rear-view mirror. She knew there was no one chasing them anymore, but it still didn't elevate her caution as she sent the car into high gear. After the ordeal they had just been through, she had every right to be jumpy.

The marshal didn't know how long she drove, but she knew she had put a good enough distance between them and the town.

Neither of the two women had spoken as they remained in a nervous state, each too charged with energy to utter a word. The cut on Michonne's forehead had stopped bleeding, leaving a fine crust spread down to her chin. Even though Samara's bullet wound had thankfully stopped bleeding, her nose was an entirely different problem. It had fractured during the high-speed ice patch escape.

They were exhausted, high-strung and cranky. A dangerous combination.

"Stop the car."

Braking in the middle of the road, the sword-wielder got out and Samara soon followed, the confines of the car becoming too stifling.

The Native began an unrelenting pace, mumbling under her breath harshly. Michonne sat on the rail at the side of the road, calm and silent as a tomb, but her eyes betrayed her. She was beyond angry as she stared out at the monotonous scenery. Bleak, just like the situation they were facing right now. Everything had gone to shit so fast they didn't even have time to think. And now, they were stuck with only a damaged car and little supplies.

Samara stopped pacing, opting to nurse her poor nose. She urgently needed to reposition it, but her strength left her as even the gentlest of prods hurt like hell.

"Hey…" Samara called out nasally. "Do you have a cigarette?"

Michonne glanced at her with those bottomless pits before she went back to staring angrily at the snow beneath her.

Samara knew the question was a futile one, but she had tried out of old habit. Sighing despondently, she crouched low to the ground with her head in her hands. She felt like giving up. This day had been their worst so far. Chased out of their home, beaten and bruised till their skin turned blue and blood leaked out of their pores, and left with no supplies that they had painstakingly gathered throughout the weeks.

–It was amazing how everything could turn 180 degrees in the matter of a moment.

"We should have left days ago…"

Those bottomless coffee orbs took on a precarious gleam. "Are you blaming me, Samara?"

"Yea—No…No, I'm not." Samara grimaced as she covered her eyes, feeling slight shame. It wasn't like Michonne had wanted this to happen. "I'm just angry."

"You think I'm not? We just lost everything. The food, the medicine Andrea still needs. We just have the IV bag left and it's almost empty."

"Not to mention the clothes, the guns." Samara mumbled hopelessly. "Everything that we needed for winter is gone. How the fuck are we going to survive now?"

Michonne shook her head. She didn't know. The supplies in the emergency backpack were enough for only one person and they were the military food packets. Disgusting as they were, they kept you fed, but broken down into three they would last maybe four days and that is if they're rationed to the extreme.

"How did they find us?" Michonne finally asked as this thought had been bugging her since she laid eyes on them.

"That bastard with the metal hand. I had an inkling he was a hunter and now I'm a hundred percent sure." Samara spat, cursing the man to hell and back. "He must have followed us back then."

"We covered our tracks." She knew Samara had been very thorough upon their trek back to town and besides, there had been a snowstorm just yesterday. No matter how talented you were, it would have been impossible for anyone to find them.

The marshal shook her head as even she couldn't understand it.

"Where to now?"

The women lapsed back into silence as they thought on their next move. They couldn't remain here, they had to keep going. To survive.

Then it hit Samara. The one place they had a chance to get through winter—

"The farm."

Michonne furrowed her brow as she tried to remember what farm they had passed by in their travels and then realized which one the marshal was talking about.

"The one you ran from filled with walkers?"

"That was months ago. It's most likely empty by now." Samara waved her skepticism off. "Think about it—there's water there, clothes, beds. They even have stoves so we won't have to worry about burning the place down. If there are stragglers nearby, we'll take care of them and leave them outside the house so they can cover our scent."

Michonne's brows furrowed deeper. It wasn't a bad idea. The area was secluded and spacious enough from Andrea's stories. It was the walkers that had her worried. If the hoard had stagnated there then it was a waste of time.

Also—

"She won't like it."

By she, she meant their blond companion.

"Andrea doesn't have a say in this." For now, Andrea was their patient and she wasn't even conscious for the majority of the time. "Besides, you think I like this? I'd rather not go back there again, but these are tough times. What I want is insignificant. What we need is what's important."

Michonne paused in thought, before nodding silently. Samara was right. Even if Andrea will spit and curse them, if the farm was safe enough then there was no backtalk to be heard. After all, what counted more—their preferences or their survival to see the light of day again?

"Fine, but once spring starts we leave Georgia."

Samara appraised her intensely. "You still want to go?"

Michonne stood up with Samara following suit. The two women looked at each other seriously. The three of them have had this discussion before, but at first it had been a passing thought. As the weeks progressed, it became more of an option before finally turning into a plan.

"I told you about my parent's cabin in Lake Santeetlah. It's big enough for three people and it's secluded. We'll gather as many supplies along the way and the lake is just a few feet from the cabin. The electricity is even solar powered." A ghost of a smile crossed Michonne's lips. "We have everything we need there."

To leave the state…It wasn't a thought Samara was opposed to.

Samara nodded resolutely.

"Once the flowers bloom, we get the fuck out of Georgia."

Chapter Text

Michonne narrowed her eyes as she concentrated on the map.

She was the one currently on navigation duty as Samara had refused to give her the wheel. Fine with her as she got to have a bit of rest. After the last two days, Michonne had barely had any sleep. Her entire waking moments had been focused on making sure Andrea didn't croak during her treatment.

Looking into the rearview mirror, Andrea was still asleep in the backseat, only now she lay comfortably instead of akimbo. Samara's stunts, while life saving, had given the blond a few ugly bruises. Andrea had fluctuated between half-consciousness and oblivion, barely aware of where she was, but it was a good sing. It meant she was close to waking up.

As they sped along, Michonne noticed a dirt road with a sign indicating towards it.

Woodbury

10km

Michonne narrowed her eyes as the name's familiar.

Ah…

After the town supplies had ran out, they had brought out their tattered map and marked the towns near their area they could pillage. Woodbury was the furthest away and one they never got the chance to ransack.

"You remember Woodbury?"

"Huh?" Samara came out of the dazed spell the stretch of grey road captured her in.

"It was one of the towns we were supposed to check out."

"Vaguely." She had no idea what Michonne was talking about as she yawned loudly. "What about it?"

"It's 10km west of here." Michonne gave her a knowing look. "What do you think?"

Samara cringed as the prospect of entering a town now. "Is it big?"

"Not much bigger than the ones we scouted before."

Samara bit her lip, before she shook her head adamantly. "I think we should avoid any towns near our old camp."

Michonne knew where the marshal's mind wandered and she agreed with her, but unfortunately— "We can't survive on that dried up soldier food, Samara. Sooner or later, we will have to go scavenging again."

"Michonne…" Samara scowled as she clenched the steering wheel harder. "We barely escaped those men and that's only because we had a shitload of luck on our side. I really don't want to push it. You saw how many there were and we both know there are more than just the ones we've killed. From their numbers, they might as well be living in one of those towns we marked down and I really wouldn't be surprised if they did." She then turned to the sword-wielder, her expression iron clad. "So no, I don't want to go scavenging. I'm still recuperating from the fucking shock I received not two hours ago and if you even think about going, I will knock you flat on your ass."

"Just an idea, don't get your panties in a twist."

Samara huffed the anger out as she averted her eyes back to the road. "Jokes on you, I'm not wearing any."

She said it with such a straight face that Michonne couldn't hold her amusement. "Now there's an idea to kill walkers, just flash 'em and they'll drop dead."

Samara glared at the lightly smirking Michonne.

"Whazzat about flashin' walkers?"

Both women's hearts skipped a beat as their ears were delighted to a voice they hadn't heard in over a week.

Andrea sat up in her seat, her arms shaking with the strain. Her straw blond hair was in disarray and her voice croaked like a frog's. The color had finally started to return to her cheeks, making her look more human than her past ghostly visage.

"Rise and shine, princess." Samara smiled as a slither of happiness crawled into her numb heart.

Michonne turned into her seat to see the blond better. "How are you feeling?"

Andrea scrunched her nose as she touched her temple gently. "Got a headache the size of an elephant and my body feels like it got ran over by a truck."

A quick glance was sent Samara's way, knowing that whatever bruises Andrea had been because of her wild actions. The marshal conveniently looked oblivious to Michonne's hairy eyeball.

"Also, I'm hungry." Andrea said after she inspected the macabre IV in her arm.

"Here."

Andres scrunched her nose in distaste at the army food packet. "Please tell me we're not down to these."

"For the time being."

"I'd rather eat rotten food. At least it got some taste." Andrea took a bite and grimaced at the sandy texture. "Damn, it's nasty."

Michonne handed her a bottled water to wet her parched throat. With greedy gulps, the blond chugged down on it until Michonne took it away. They had to ration after all.

"So, why do you wanna flash walkers?" The blonde asked the two women in bewilderment. She hadn't heard their conversation only the last bit and she was rightly confused. They had a strange topic of discussion.

"Michonne thinks the sight of my wild vagina will kill walkers."

A blink.

Andrea remained straight faced as she dryly swallowed the harsh piece of food. She sighed heavily once the tasteless meal reached her stomach and shook her head.

"…I don't even wanna know."

Samara chuckled merrily and even Michonne cracked a smile.

Andrea looked around herself, her fuzzy mind finally realizing what was amiss. She was in a car and its backseat was ripped in many places and it seemed that she was much too close to the front seats than usual. Peeking over her shoulder, the blond was surprised to see the damage the back end of the car was in. There was no window for one, and she could see the interior of the trunk with the hatch barely hanging onto the car. The windows on either side of her were cracked and in danger of falling off at a single touch.

"Why are we in a car and what the hell happened to it?" She then took a closer look at her companions. Cuts and bruises and dried blood covered their faces. "What the fuck happened to you?"

"Long story."

Andrea looked to Michonne for an explanation.

"We had to run."

The sword-wielder began recounting the exciting tale of their sudden departure. Andrea listened with a horrified expression, her jaw slacking every now and then in awe.

"Goddamn…" Andrea sat back against the ruined seat, her head heavy from the abuse of information. She couldn't believe that that just happened merely half an hour ago. "I was asleep durin' all that?"

"Like a log." Samara slowed the car down as they reached a stretch of road untouched by cars and so, was full with ankle deep snow.

"I can't believe this." The blond felt weak once again as the news hit her right in the gut. "We left everythin' behind?"

"It was either our lives or the bags."

"Shit..." Covering her face with her palms, Andrea leaned over herself in dismay. Both front seat passengers could relate to her plight. They also had been through that same dread not too long ago and some of those feelings still lingered.

Taking a deep breath, the blond pressed her lips into a thin line as she let the news wash over her. What happened, happened, and there was nothing they could do about it. Now, they had to look forward.

"Where to now?" The two women must have a direction in mind. They weren't foolish enough to just drive around the state, hoping something came up in their quest.

Samara hesitated as she looked to Michonne for support. The woman just gave her an unreadable wall—Samara had steered them towards the farm so she was the one that had to break the news.

The marshal grimaced as she looked in the rearview mirror at Andrea's expectant face.

"We're going back to the farm."

The ball dropped.

Andrea's face went through several emotions—surprise, horrified shock, betrayal and ultimately, furious anger.

"What?!" Andrea gripped the back of the front seat as she snarled at the marshal. "No! Hell no! Are you insane?!"

"Calm down." Michonne gently pushed her back. She wasn't ready to strain herself just yet. "This is just temporary."

"Don't tell me to—!"

The blond's words died in her throat as a harsh coughing fit took over. Bended over herself, her hands shook from the pressure applied on her lungs.

Michonne gritted her teeth as she felt powerless when faced with Andrea's pneumonia. There was only so much she and the marshal could do and stopping the coughs wasn't it.

"Lay back down." Michonne helped Andrea settle back down on the backseat. Taking off her winter coat, the sword-wielder threw it over Andrea's trembling body. Michonne felt her stomach clench once blood coated the blonde's lips. "Your body needs rest. Get some sleep and we'll talk about this later."

"Talk when?" She coughed a few more times as tears slipped from underneath her lashes. "When I wake up in my old room in the house?"

"You really want to go back there?" Her eyes connected with Samara's through the rearview mirror. "After everything that's happened?"

"We have nowhere else to go, Andrea. It's either the farm or the car." Her voice softened, dreading the moment she saw the Greene's family land once again. "Believe me, that's the last place I want to go back to."

Andrea let her head fall back on the seat, feeling defeated. She wasn't in the habit of opening old skeleton closets and Samara literally just pushed her into one. She really didn't want to go. It would open all sorts of barely patched wounds and she didn't feel like wallowing into them, but she knew she was outnumbered two to one and she was too unhealthy to fight back. For now, she would have to follow the other women's lead, but once she got on her own two feet, they'll be hell to pay.

Andrea hoped to God that it will be worth reliving that nightmare once again.


 

Two hours had passed and the three women still hadn't arrived at the farm.

The road had been precarious. They had to cross huge ice patches at the pace of a snail and push several cars out of the way to allow the large Jeep to pass by. Despite the bright sun, the air was cold enough that their nostrils stuck together.

Judging by Samara's calculations they had another twenty minutes before they reached the farm and Michonne was just happy that they were leaving the road although she wasn't a hundred percent sure the farm was a good choice.

Looking out the window, Michonne's mind flew as the repetitive scenery sent her into a state of trance, oblivious to the world around her. Andrea was still in the backseat, sleeping, while Samara was driving.

Samara yawned.

She was exhausted. The little sleep she got these past few weeks coupled with the actions and beat down not too long ago had her barely standing on her feet.

Her head dropped for a second, before instantly waking up.

Blinking hard, Samara shook her head to dispel the drowsiness, but it just kept coming back with a vengeance. The long stretch of road and the bleakly colored panorama made her eyes droop until they finally shut. Samara's head lolled with the motions of the car as the wheel gently slipped from her lax fingers.

Michonne frowned as she felt the car sway slowly. Blinking away the haze, she confirmed her suspicion as the car moved awfully close to the side of the road. Looking to her left, the sword-wielder's eyes almost popped out of her skull.

—Samara was dead asleep at the fucking wheel!

Just as Michonne was ready to take hold of the wheel, the unthinkable happened.

Someone ran out of the woods right into the middle of the road.

"Watch out!"

The yell instantly woke Andrea and Samara up and the latter stepped instinctively on the brakes. The car's wheels screeched, but it was too late. The man grunted and yelled in pain as the wrecked car hit him full frontal, cracking the windshield in the process. Rolling over the hood and the roof, he fell to the pavement with a sickening squelch.

The car came to a halt.

Michonne let the breath she had been holding out with a rasp. Did they really just run someone over? In the middle of nowhere?!

"What the hell…" Andrea wondered unsteadily, uncomprehending of what just happened.

Samara wasn't as confused as the sleep haze was now a speck at the back of her mind.

"Goddammit! That's the second time I hit someone in a year."

Michonne and Andrea looked at Samara strangely making awkwardness swell inside the car.

"Unintentionally…" She defended herself. She hadn't meant to hit that guy towards Charleston.

Andrea looked through the missing rear window. The man was a dark mass on the white ground with a growing red pool underneath his still body.

"Is he dead?" Michonne asked as she tried to see past Andrea.

"If he isn't, he's going to wish he was." A hit that hard most likely broke some bones.

Twack!

Samara held the back of her head as she stared wide-eyed at the sword-wielder.

"The fuck was that for?!"

"You reckless idiot! You fell asleep at the wheel!"

The astonishment quickly evaporated in favor of anger. "Well, excuse me for being tired."

"That's no reason. We're all exhausted." The sword-wielder swore she was seconds away from starting a fist-fight with the marshal. "Why didn't you let me drive if you can't keep yourself awake?"

"I thought I could handle it!"

"Clearly, you can't."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Are you in any better state than I am?" Samara snorted scathingly. "If you had been in my shoes you would've also fallen asleep. So, why don't you get off my a—"

"Will you two stop?" Andrea finally intervened as she had enough. "Damn, I swear you two are gettin' worse with each day. Always bickerin' about petty things. You're worse than an old married couple."

Samara grimaced as she looked away while Michonne sighed exasperatedly. They've been around each other for so long that it was starting to affect them and not in a good way. Living cramped in one room with barely any personal space could do that to anyone. Not to mention the added pressure of their sick companion had driven them to the brink of physical violence, something they haven't delved into since the first weeks of their meeting.

"Instead of stayin' here and arguin', how about we see to the guy we just ran over?"

Andrea left the car without waiting for their answer. Michonne cursed and immediately followed the blond. The woman could barely stand, she shouldn't be marching off to tend to whatever they happened to kill, be it monster or human.

Samara soon followed as all three women braved the cold.

Not even two steps from the car, Andrea collapsed in the snow. The sword-wielder quickly reached her and slung her arm over her shoulder, supporting most of her weight as she straightened her out.

"Damn, I'm already tired…" Andrea breathed heavily as she could feel beads of sweat pool on her skin.

"Stay in the car and we'll check him."

"Just help me get to him." Andrea frowned, undeterred from her goal.

Michonne gritted her teeth, suppressing the urge to just haul the woman back in the car and be gone already. With small steps the two women walked towards their roadkill.

Samara remained a distance away, her eyes roving over the part of the forest the man came out of. Something must have scared him deeply for him to run in the middle of the street without even being careful. Either that or it was something else and Samara wasn't sure which was worse.

Is this some sort of ambush?

Her suspicion stirring up again, the marshal upholstered her gun, ready to use it at the first sign of animosity. After everything that's happened, Samara was at a 'shoot first, ask questions never' stage.

Approaching the body, Michonne inspected him with detached eyes. The man was a bloodied mess, lying on the street on his stomach. She could see that the man's leg was broken since the bone protruded through the skin while his other was contorted awkwardly.

He didn't seem to be alive.

"Don't get so close." Michonne stopped the blond from getting any closer as she unsheathed her katana and prodded the still body.

"Relax, Mich. He's not dead yet." She pointed at the slight movement of his torso, indication of breath. "No chance of him bitin' my head off yet."

Andrea crouched low with her help. Before the blond could try exerting herself further, Michonne took it on herself to roll the body onto its back.

"Goddamn…" Andrea grimaced as she looked at the black man. His front seemed to have taken the full brunt of the hit. The blond turned to the pacing marshal with a brow raised. "You did one hell of a number on him."

Hearing this, Samara eyed the broken man and shrugged. "It wasn't like I did it on purpose. He jumped right in front of the car." Her attention then returned to the forest line, no guilt present in her words. "We should just kill him so we can leave.

"We can't just kill him, Samara." Andrea looked at the marshal crossly. The marshal might be able to, but the blond didn't have the heart to just end someone after they just accidentally ran him over.

"Think of it as putting him out of his misery. It's not like he's just going to get up and miraculously walk again."

As Andrea dismissed the woman's ever callous attitude, Michonne watched the tension in her movements and knew the Native was in a hyper-vigilant state. Moving towards her, the sword-wielder observed with scrutiny the dark areas between the trees.

"See anything?"

Samara shook her head slowly. "Something's not right here. That guy wasn't just running for the sake of it or possibly because he heard our car. He was running from something."

"Or someone."

As the two women conversed, Andrea remained by the man's side. As her pale eyes scanned him from head to toe something caught her attention—there was an object held tightly in the man's hand. With a cough and shaky fingers, she attempted to pry his hand apart, to see what this mysterious object was.

Jolting his body must have been the one thing that awakened his dormant consciousness because once he opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was a stranger leaning over his body, he acted in a panic.

—He slashed Andrea across the cheek with the now revealed switchblade.

"Jesus!"

Both women turned startled as Andrea threw herself away from the man, cradling her bloodied cheek. Michonne was the first to act as she ran towards the hysteric man and kicked him in the face. Again and again, the sword-wielder assaulted the pleading and screaming man without mercy.

Samara hurried towards Andrea and gently pried her fingers to see the gravity of her wound. The marshal grimaced as the cut spread from the left corner of her lips to her ear and seeped blood continuously.

"It's deep. You'll need stitches."

With angry eyes and a snarl on her face, Andrea looked wide-eyed at the marshal.

"Gimme your blade!"

Samara paused as she gazed into the woman's eyes. There was nothing but iron resolve in there mixed with righteous fury. Unsheathing her blade, she presented it to the blond without a second thought. The marshal understood Andrea's fury and agreed with what her anger-fueled mind was about to do.

The blond rose to her feet with Samara's help and wobbled over to her offender, tears of pain and anger rolling down her face.

As Michonne was ready to deliver another kick to the man's stomach she was pushed away. The shock on her face was visible as she watched her blond companion raise the machete over her head and drop it without mercy into the man's skull.

Silence.

A light wind disturbed the blanket of snow, making their winter coats rustle.

Michonne was stunned. Of the three of them, Andrea was the most humane and least likely to kill anyone living, whatever their actions may have been—for her to do such a violent act was out of character and…sad. She felt like the blonde just took a step closer to the two already tainted women. Something she had tried to avoid ever since meeting her.

"Son of a bitch." Andrea spat on the man's corpse, hate still visible on her face. "Should've done this from the beginnin'."

Michonne got out of her stupor once she saw Andrea waiver and almost fall to her knees if it weren't for the marshal catching her. With hurried steps, she took in the paleness of her skin and the slight daze in her eyes. "Are you alright?"

"No." Andrea coughed as she felt her body get increasingly warm. "No, I'm definitely not alright."

"Come on. I'm taking you back to the car."

"There's a small first aid kit in the back of the trunk." Samara said as she passed Andrea over to Michonne before looking at the barely recognizable back end of the car. "…If it's still there."

As the two women left for the car, Samara remained with the dead man. He sported a long dark winter coat covering most of his body and dark blue pants with winter boots on. Samara gave no importance to this as she crouched low and patted the man down for anything useful he might be carrying. The marshal opened the man's coat and froze with the material in her hands.

"I'll be damned…This son of a bitch was an inmate."

Looking behind, she saw Michonne trying to open the destroyed trunk of the car and whistled sharply, catching her attention.

"What is it?" Michonne furrowed her brows as she approached the Native.

"Look. Blue uniform with a name and number tag—A. Bartholomew, Nr. 481516." Samara looked at the dark woman with an amused smirk and the next words came out in a southern accent. "Looky here, cowgirl. We got ourselves a runaway."

The flat look Michonne gave her could crack the pavement.

Samara chuckled, finding her dark humor hilarious even if her companion didn't.

Michonne ignored the Native's grossly displaced wit in favor of her surroundings. There was dread growing at the base of her stomach and it was all because of the mystery surrounding the dead man.

"I didn't see any prisons on the map."

"Detention facilities don't usually show up on paper maps." Samara rose to her feet, finding nothing of value on his corpse but the switchblade. "System didn't want civilians rolling by or worse, tourists trying to get pictures of it."

"If he was a prisoner then why is he still wearing the outfit after all these months?"

"Now that I do not know." Samara was also confused. By the label on the coat, it was an expensive one, one not found anywhere near a prison. Also, prison uniforms weren't that warm to start with so why only a winter coat and nothing extra? Did he escape when the virus broke and survived the winter only with meager clothes or…

—Maybe he just recently left the prison and that's why he was running.

Considering that there are only two things now that could get you running like the Devil's on your heels, Samara definitely didn't want to know where that prison was.

"I think we should go." Michonne broke the tense silence as the two were absorbed into their own thoughts on what happened. "If by any chance he came running from a prison, it's clear the place is a no go. Either crawling with walkers or people."

It then hit Samara.

"Maybe he came from there."

The sword-wielder's brow furrowed as the unreadable gaze was back in place. "Let's just get to the farm. I've had enough of people trying to kill us to last me a year."

"Couldn't agree more."


 

There was a heavy tension in the air.

With each second, the farm got closer and closer. They drove on the Greene's dirt road, passing the rusted mailbox and destroyed front gate courtesy of Dixon.

Samara's fingers clenched tightly on her knees, her heart ready to leap out of her throat. By the Gods, she didn't want to be here. She didn't want to see the farm again.

—She didn't want the nightmares to come back.

There was a viscous silence between the three women. Two of them have gone through hell here and the other was simply assessing the place for safety reasons. She knew the history her two companions had and kept her words to herself lest she trigger a negative reaction.

Samara's breath hitched. The trees were thinning and she could see the house in the distance.

Outside of the forest, they came upon the field and drove just close enough to the house. Michonne pulled the break and all three women left the car.

"Oh my God…" The shock and grief were all visible on Andrea's face as her eyes drank in the sight. "I don't even recognize it anymore."

Samara looked over the house with something akin to despondency. Where once life breathed through its halls, now there was nothing left but a withered husk surrounded by a sea of dead trees.

It was a depressing sight, Samara thought. The snow made it even worse as it gave it a haunted aspect. The marshal could see the dark clumps in the snow that were the walkers they had put down that night and there was a faint voice in her that whispered poison that they were not dead, but merely waiting.

Samara swallowed thickly. It had been a bad idea coming back here. What was here for them except bad memories?

Looking over the fields, her eyes landed on the charred remains of the barn. Half of it was down while the other was barely standing, the black wooden beans ready to collapse at the faintest of touches. The RV was still outside, but even with the snow covering it, Samara could still see the traces of old blood.

—Jimmy was in there.

And Patricia…

She was somewhere near the house…if there was anything left of her after the walkers' feast.

Goddamn it.

Samara pulled the skull mask back over her face and with it the rounded sunglasses. She didn't want to be this vulnerable and this graveyard was breaking what was left of her heart.

"Samara, let's check the house." Michonne broke the silence as she unsheathed her katana. "Andrea, stay in the car and keep the engine running in case we have to leave. If something comes up, honk the horn."

Andrea nodded absent minded as she clutched her arms with desperation, bitter memories resurfacing with each moment spent here.

Even under Michonne's scrutinizing gaze, Samara said nothing. Climbing the front porch of the house they approached the door, blades ready. Samara made a signal for Michonne to stay behind as she opened the door. With a twist, the knob turned and the door opened. Samara jumped out of the way to let Michonne deal with any walker that might spring forth, but nothing came.

Michonne took lead as Samara formed the rear. They entered the hall and as they reached open space, Samara took the living room while Michonne the dining. Just before turning the corner, the Native felt her heart clench knowing what awaited her there or maybe didn't.

Her heart shrunk even further—

It was still there.

The necklace was still there, hanging by the knife handle and by the looks of it nothing seemed to have been touched from the time she left months ago to the moment she stepped foot in this house again just a few seconds ago.

—Samara felt like screaming.

Michonne joined Samara once she secured the dining room and eyed the multicolored sign on the wall with a frown. She threw a questioning glance at the marshal, but Samara simply took the necklace off and continued on her way. The sword-wielder could sense something was amiss, but now was not the time. They had to clear the house first.

Checking every square inch of the house, they found nothing but a walker stagnating by the basement door which was easily dispatched.

At the end of their search, they exit the house.

"It's clear." Michonne told Andrea once they reached the car. She took the backpack from the backseat and urged the blond to step outside. "Come on."

Samara helped Andrea walk to the house, but as they stood just outside the door, Andrea froze.

"It's alright. There's no blood or bodies. Only a dead walker."

Andrea's eyes were disdainful. "Are you alright with this?"

Samara's grip tightened as she forced Andrea to move forward, making the blond almost trip on the threshold. Andrea cursed underneath her breath as she entered the house and Samara guided her to the living room. Settling her on one of the dusty couches, Andrea groaned from the effort all of this taxed her weak muscles.

"Goddamn, it's freezin' in here." Andrea could see her breath as she kept coughing with little pauses in between to catch her breath.

"I'll get some logs from the shed. There must be some still left there."

Samara more than happily left the house. The smell of dust and stillness and whatever critters had made that house their home was making it hard to breath.

Inside the shed, she paused as the metal cuffs still hung from the upper beam.

Randall…The start of the farm's downfall.

If it hadn't been for him, maybe things would have ended differently, but then again the hoard's coming had been inevitable. It would have been upon them sooner or later and maybe it would've had a different outcome, a better one.

Taking the few logs from the shed, Samara slipped back into the house. Upon entering the living area she saw the top of Andrea's head peeking out from underneath a mountain of blankets with Michonne sitting near her to inspect the cut on her cheek.

Throwing the logs in the fireplace, Samara ripped a few pages from a book and doused them in cooking oil to kindle a spark. It took a few minutes and a parched throat from all the puffing for it to finally grow large enough, but it was worth it. Sitting down in front of the fire, Samara took off her coat and inspected the bullet wound.

"It wasn't as shallow as I thought."

The graze on her arm turned out to have taken a bit of meat off. Thankfully, it didn't feel like it had chipped the bone. Funny though, Samara hadn't felt it. The adrenaline mixed with painkillers in her system had most likely numbed the shock.

Perhaps this was why she fell asleep at the wheel. The bullet wound combined with her fractured nose had drained her of more blood than she had thought, making her lightheaded.

"The old man that owned this place was a veterinarian, right?"

Samara nodded.

"There must be some medical kit left around we could use." Michonne tried to remember seeing anything like that in the rooms she had checked. Andrea needed stitches and from the looks of it, so did Samara. The kit in the car was unreachable at the moment.

"No, I took everything when I left." Samara had also taken pretty much all the canned food along with the medicine. The fact that they had a roof over their head was great, but no food and no medicine was a major letdown.

Taking the news in stride, Michonne never broke composure. "Then it's sewing needle and twine for now."

"Whichever closes the wound, I don't really care."

"You know where they are?"

Samara's tipped her head towards the stairs. "Beth's room, I think. Second door on the right."

"Before I go…" Michonne approached the marshal carefully. "We need to straighten out your nose."

The Native abruptly broke into a defensive pose with her shoulders hunched over and her eyes sharply appraising the woman before her.

"Stop being a baby." Michonne chided her behavior as she stepped closer much to Samara's dread.

It wasn't that she was being childish, but it hurt!

Samara cringed at the sensation of Michonne's prodding and flat out broke into a cold sweat once she got a good grip of her fracture.

This was it.

"On three." Michonne licked her dry lips. "One."

Oh Gods. This is going to hurt so much.

"Two—"

Crack!

"Fuck!" Samara jumped out of her seat, cursing everything to hell and back. It was supposed to be three! She hadn't been prepared for it!

"You bitch…" She whimpered with tears streaming down her cheeks, leaving clear lines left in the blood.

Michonne shrugged as she left the room in search for the supplies. "Unexpected is the best way."

Samara fell back in her seat, gently cupping her throbbing nose as the waves short-circuited her brain. The tears dribbled down her face continuously and the sudden urge to crawl into a fetal position was becoming far too tempting. She was just on the brink of doing that when Andrea spoke.

"You write that?"

Despite the wet sheen over her eyes, Samara followed the blond's gaze to the writing on the wall. "A heads up in case they ever passed through here again. They haven't."

"How do you know?"

"Left this on the knife handle." Samara took the necklace out of her pocket, displaying it. "It was still here."

"I remember that…" Reminiscence seemed to spark as she observed the necklace thoughtfully. "You always wore it. Huh, I'm only realizin' now that it's been missin' all this time."

"I guess it's the little things we overlook." A small smile ghosted over the marshal's lips as her fingers petted over the grizzly fangs with odd affection. Her family's only heirloom.

"You wasted your time."

The good mood suddenly soured.

Andrea looked at the writing in indifference. Over the months, the blond had slowly and gradually gotten over her anger with the Atlanta group and in its stead, a strange blanket of apathy settled.

"Why would they come back?" Even with her voice distant, Samara could still hear the faint traces of melancholy. "They moved on…"

Samara said nothing as she continued nursing her nose. She just wished Michonne would hurry up with those stitches so she wouldn't have to think about their former group any longer. It was bad enough they were in this house, the marshal didn't wish to also verbalize her thoughts on the former inhabitants. She would rather just stew in them.

 

Chapter Text

"Shit!"

Samara backed away from the generator, shaking her hand of the stinging sensation.

"It's broken, isn't it?"

Michonne stood at the entrance of the stable and watched for the better part of twenty minutes how Samara struggled with the generator. The marshal had no idea what she was doing, but she poked and prodded the damned thing until she cut her finger.

"I think it's just out of fuel."

The sword-wielder sighed, her arms crossing over her chest as her coffee eyes dug holes into the marshal's back. "You didn't count on this, did you?"

"Not exactly." The Native picked up her glove and pulled it back over her hand. "Back then we just had electricity and water. I knew it was from generators, but I didn't think they would one day stop working."

"What did you think they run on? Magic?"

Samara bristled, but bit her lip from spewing insults. Michonne was right after all.

"So, we have no hot water and no power, just cold water from the wells, heat from the fireplace and light from candles. It's better than nothing."

It wasn't good enough. Samara had wanted the farm to be in the same state it had been a few months ago. To realize that it was as dead on the inside as it looked on the outside was discouraging.

"I thought this place would be our one break." Disappointment coated her voice.

"It is. Just a bit different." Michonne gave the woman a comforting pat on the shoulder. "It's good that we came here, Samara. It's better than the meat locker. We can make do with what we have."

"Yeah…" Samara snorted cynically. "Sticks and stones."

Both women stepped out of the stable, nothing of worth left to inspect.

"We could gather whatever fuel we find when we go scavenging and use it to feed the generator."

The sword-wielder shook her head after thinking it over. "I don't think we need to waste gas on this. A car is much more valuable."

Reluctantly, Samara agreed. She might be wrong and the generator could be broken. Being left unattended for months on end could have busted it beyond function.


 

As they walked the property, Samara watched as Michonne prodded and stabbed every white lump for signs of unlife. After bandaging themselves, the two women had agreed to walk the grounds of the farm in search of any hibernating or catatonic walkers. Michonne had been rather adamant in making the house secure and so, here they were, ankle deep in snow, stabbing walkers.

It was a good idea on the sword-wielder's part, but it was tiresome especially since both women were exhausted from all the activity, not to mention the beating they took. The Native had shared painkillers with her companion, both in need of relief.

Samara poked the bridge of her nose and hissed. Despite the bone being set in its rightful place, the ache had only dulled to a point. Like a headache you couldn't get rid of no matter what. All in all, the women had managed to stop their injuries from bleeding further. Unfortunately, they couldn't stop their bodies from turning purple and yellow. With morbid amusement, Samara likened them to lizards shimmering in the sun.

Looking at the house, the marshal wondered what else still remained there. Obviously, she had seen some of the bags left behind and if she remembered correctly she hadn't touched them last time she was here. Samara had been more concentrated on finding provisions than snooping. Once they finished poking the walkers for the day, she swore she would search through each and every one of those backpacks.

"Michonne."

The woman grunted.

"We need to make an inventory of what we have and make a list on what we need." There was scarcely any food left inside the house and their meager rations will end in a day or two. "Find towns on the map. Pry open that car trunk and get that medical kit out no matter how small it is. And—"

"Once we finish our round, then."

Both women lapsed back into silence as they continued with their grueling task. They closed up on the burnt barn and Michonne observed it carefully before approaching the RV. Samara joined her, but did not step inside the vehicle. She already had a good idea what was strewn all over inside and she didn't need a visual confirmation. Michonne exited five minutes later, her usual narrow eyed expression set even deeper. She found nothing useful.

She stepped next to the marshal and gave the sorry sight one last perusal. "Must have been one night…"

"I don't want to talk about it, Michonne."

Turning on her heel, the Native trekked back through the snow, unwilling to look at the skeletons left behind from that night.

"You know, we could clean the RV—"

"That piece of junk broke down often. Dale was the only one who could fix it."

"Which one was Dale again?"

"The old one that stuck his nose in everyone's business."

"Ah." She recalled Andrea's disgruntled words about that one.

Dark eyes settled on the marshal. Now that they were on their own, they could finally talk freely. It wasn't that the sword-wielder couldn't talk around Andrea; it was just that there were some subjects only the two women understood.

—Most likely why they grudgingly knew more about each other than anyone else.

"You hoped that the necklace would be gone, didn't you?"

Samara paused for a moment before resuming her pace seemingly undisturbed, but Michonne knew better. Her question had thrown the marshal off balance. It had taken Michonne a few moments to put two and two together to realize what the marshal's intentions had been.

—Michonne's instincts were too sharp to let anything escape her.

"Yeah…" Samara drawled as she stabbed a walker. She had mulled over responding, but she knew that sooner or later they would broach this subject once again and she knew it wouldn't be Michonne initiating it. "Thought that they would at least check if maybe we came back. That we were still alive."

"If you were alive."

Samara didn't need to answer. They both knew it.

"You miss them."

The glower sent towards the dark woman had no effect. She hated it when Michonne got chatty. Usually, she was so quiet she bordered on being mute. There had been days where Samara hadn't heard a peep out of her and days like this one where the need to socialize was strong and it was never about mundane things. It always about something she observed that Samara or Andrea didn't want to be noticed.

Seriously, the woman was worse than a hawk, but it was that sharpness that completed Samara's own awareness that kept them alive so far.

"Sometimes. Some of them were alright." Samara said softly as she scratched at her bandaged nose. Her lips then contorted into a light scowl. "But my anger overshadows any sadness I have in me."

She resumed walking, a bitterness overcoming her. At this point, Samara had no reason to hide what she felt. It was liberating every once in a while to just let go.

"What could they have done in their situation?"

"I'm not an idiot, Michonne." Samara waited for the other woman to catch up, taking her sunglasses off in the process. "I know that during that night they couldn't have done anything. At that point, it was every man for himself, but what about the morning after? What about the next few days?" The marshal scoffed derisively. "I mean, they looked for a little girl that had zero chances of surviving for over two weeks but they couldn't even look for me and Andrea for one day? Were we that disposable?"

"Maybe they thought you were dead." It was plausible considering how Samara had survived the hoard. "Why waste time on the dead when they could focus on the living."

"Thinking is different than seeing." To the marshal's perception of that night—which she had given a lot of time to ponder over—neither Daryl nor Carol actually saw her die. "Who knows what they saw, but I'm telling you now, if they weren't a hundred percent sure that I croaked and still left me behind because it was too much of a fucking inconvenience, I'm going to scalp them." The marshal fumed silently, her olive eyes darkening with a sickly emotion. "I will go full-blown, Old West Navajo on their asses. I promise you that."

The sword-wielder simply responded with a light huff. "This is the first time I actually see you show your true feelings about your former group, none of that bullshit that you've gotten over what happened. If you're angry you should be angry. Don't hold back what you feel just because it offends others."

"I wasn't suppressing them because I was trying to lie to myself. I was doing it because I didn't want to add more fuel to the fire. We've had a rough month. Why join the fray and make everything more unbearable?" Her brows then rose knowingly. "Besides, do you really want to hear me bitch and moan?"

It only took a moment for Michonne to envision such a scenario.

"Point taken."

The marshal grunted and slipped her sunglasses back in place. Her anger slowly deflated as she stared at the grey nothingness around her, a quiet gloom thinning her lips.

"The truth is I'm angry. I'm so angry that I could hit someone, but I also feel like an idiot. For trusting them and for feeling sad that they abandoned me. I was harsh and I was cold, but I helped them out and I protected them when they truly needed it. Was that not enough?" Samara's voice took on a more prickly aspect. "What else was I supposed to do? Shower them with love and sing a hippy song around the campfire? "

"Being nice would have probably helped."

"Fuck you." The marshal did not like being made a fool out of.

"Samara…" Michonne walked after the pissed off marshal. She hadn't meant to, it was just—"Sorry, but your whining was starting to grate on my ears." Seeing that the marshal wasn't placated—in fact it just made her walk even faster away—the sword-wielder caught her arm and pulled her back harshly.

"It's in the past." Michonne tried to calm the snarling woman. "They're not here anymore so what's the point in reliving this over and over again? Even Andrea has let them go. Let it die already."

"You think I don't want to?" Samara's voice rose with a pitch as she tapped her gloved fist against the center of her chest. "To be free of this black, soul-sucking vortex in my heart? I just can't let it go, not without some closure."

Michonne sighed in exasperation. She understood the marshal's plight, but the sword-wielder truly wished for this matter to end. Unfortunately, Samara was too bitter to start opening her heart towards forgiveness and Michonne could give her a thousand reasons to let go and they would still go through one ear and out the other.

The Native's only hope was either forgetting with the passage of time or confronting the reason head on. Since the latter had slim chances of ever happening, it seemed Michonne would have to rely on time to heal that particular wound.


 

Three hours later and they weren't even half-way done.

After a heated discussion, Michonne had conceded to finishing up the other half tomorrow. One hour more and that was it for today.

As they kept probing, Samara alternated between whistling sharply and clapping her hands similar to what a farmer does when crows descend on their crop—scare off the pests, but in this case it was to awaken them. They had only managed to find a few hibernating walkers and Samara wasn't sure if she should be happy or worried that there were almost no walkers on the property. Last time this happened a herd descended on this very farm, destroying it.

Speaking of the undead—

"Michonne, you alright?"

The woman gave her a confused frown.

"Terry and Mike, we left them behind. No…I ran over them."

"So?"

The marshal's eyes narrowed as she tried to see through her body language. Michonne had dragged those two walkers after her for more than seven months and considering that they used to be close before the virus, they must have meant something to her.

"Do you not care?"

"I mourned them a long time ago, Samara." She said quietly, an allusion of sorrow flowing through her words. "They were just ghosts I kept alive because I was alone."

Her words settled a chill underneath the marshal's skin. They reminded her of a different sort of ghost, one with fur and an annoying habit of needing to be petted at every moment of the day. Olive eyes traveled over the fields and settled on the smallest of graves where her once road companion was laid to rest.

Samara felt no sadness, thought. Alistair had been a good dog and he died a death befitting him. It was better that he passed away then since if he had still lived, Samara's wouldn't have been able to take care of him…or she would have ate him, and that would have been sad.

Dispelling such morbid thoughts, Samara went back to her tedious work. They were now outside of the fenced area and Samara's eyes narrowed as she saw something in the snow—there seemed to be a pair of black combat boots on a downed walker covered by snow and as she approached, they appeared to be in perfect shape. With the thought to replace her old ones, she kicked the walker's leg to gauge its state. When it made no move, Samara got to scavenging. The boots were a few sizes too big, but she couldn't complain.

As Samara's actions caused the body to jostle, the snow was shaken off revealing more and more of the walker. Once the boots were in Samara's possession, she looked down at the corpse to thank it in jest.

—Her words remained stuck in her throat.

The walker…

It was Shane.

"…Fuck me."

Samara inspected the dead deputy with shocked eyes. His ash-grey skin was wrinkled and there was old crusted blood on the lower half of his face. Even with the changes she still could recognize him. It seemed that the cold preserved him well enough to be still identified.

"What is it?" Michonne joined her.

"I knew him." Samara said lowly as she smoothly wiped some snow from Shane's ice cold temple. "He was one of the Atlanta group—the deputy, Shane."

"The crazy one?"

Samara nodded slowly. "I wasn't aware that he had died back then. I thought that like Andrea he ran off or maybe got into one of the cars." Her eyes then landed on two bullet holes—one in the chest and the other in the forehead. "But then again, Shane wasn't exactly the luckiest of men."

It had been anticipated for a long time. Samara remembered that one moment before the hoard arrived when two gunshots signaled the insanity that had been the farm's last stand.

Did Rick kill Shane?

The sheriff had been with the deputy that night and seemed the only explanation, but then why had he shot him in the chest first?

Rising up to her feet, Samara gave the deputy a pitying look. His obsession with Rick's family had cost him his life and now he laid here on the very farm he hadn't wanted to remain in the first place.

—The only end for a mad dog.

"I don't think we should tell Andrea about this. She's still recovering."

Samara snorted sardonically as she read between the lines. "Don't get so dramatic, Andrea isn't that weak-minded anymore. There was nothing romantic between them. They just fucked a few times. She'll just get a bit sad and then she'll get angry once she realizes how Shane died."

Michonne's brow furrowed as she couldn't understand how turning into a walker could upset the blond even further, but then she followed Samara's gaze towards the bullet holes.

"He was murdered."

"Yep, and I bet my guns that it was the sheriff who did the deed. Poetic, if you ask me."

"…I still think we shouldn't. Andrea didn't want to come here in the first place and we come and throw this in her lap…"

"I get what you're saying, but didn't we agree on not keeping any secrets from each other?" Which, Samara might add, had been Michonne's idea from the start.

Michonne breathed in deeply as she knew that Samara was right. For better or worse, Andrea had to know.

With the discovery of the former deputy, they concluded their walker hunt for the day. As the snow crunched underneath their boots, Samara gave Michonne a disapproving turn of her lips.

The sword-wielder's response was a blank face coupled with a questioning brow.

"You really need to stop pampering her, Michonne. Andrea's not a child and she's not an idiot."

Michonne's expression contorted into a slight frown. "I'm not babying her. I'm just worried."

"Worried isn't the same as obsessing over. Look, I know you love Andrea, but come on. She's strong, she can handle almost anything thrown at her. You shouldn't think so little of her."

When Samara couldn't hear Michonne anymore, she stopped and watched as the sword-wielder stood unmoving as a statue, her eyes the only part of her body breathing life—and they were troubled. This was the first time Samara saw Michonne so shaken up. She didn't even flinch when she killed someone alive, but she froze at the mere mention of something intimate going on between her and the blond.

"Why…would you think I love Andrea?"

"Because I can see the way you act around her. I'm surprised Andrea hasn't realized it yet."

Michonne shook off her stunned disposition.

"I'm not in love with Andrea. She was the first person I met after the Turn that didn't try to kill me and she's not like you or I." At Samara's raised brow, the sword-wielder explained. "Back then she wouldn't have survived a day on her own so I took her under my wing. I protected her. It felt good being needed…but then she toughened up." Back when they had met, except for shooting her gun Andrea hadn't known anything. As time passed, Michonne had taught her more and more and then Samara came in the picture. The Native shared her knowledge, filling up the gaps that Michonne couldn't. "She's the only one of the three of us who still has some compassion and faith in what little there is left of humanity. That's why I care for her more than I should."

"Because she has something you lost?"

"No, Andrea has something I was too weak to hold on too."

Michonne's words felt like a blow. Taking off her sunglasses, Samara gazed at the sword-wielder with cautious skepticism.

"That's not weakness, Michonne. That's strength. Not many have the stomach to do what we do. We've survived some risky situations where others would have just shit their pants and died from their own stupidity. Surviving in this world doesn't come from being nice or sympathetic."

"I know." The only reason Michonne was still alive was because she had closed off parts of herself that dealt with compassion. "But if there is a chance to survive without losing yourself why not try it?" Michonne knew she was sliding down a slippery slope, each day losing another part of her being. "Do you really want to become some beast with only their basic instincts to depend on? That's damnation, Samara. I'd rather not walk that line and I don't understand why you would."

"Ah." Samara leered as her eyes flashed acidly. "So, in your story, I'm the monster."

Michonne sighed as once again the marshal only thought about herself.

"We're both monsters, Samara."

"Give me a fucking break!" Samara paced like caged animal, annoyed with the topic of this conversation. "I don't know what's gotten into you, but stop it. Go kill some walkers, make a new Terry and Mike, do something to get it out of your system because you're starting to sound crazier than you usually do."

Michonne watched passively as the marshal stomped back to the farmhouse. The sword-wielder knew that the marshal's anger was a direct cause of her words and that effect made her look at herself and see something she hadn't liked. And so, like Samara always did when confronted, she hid behind her callousness and practicality.

Michonne wasn't sorry for what she had said. Samara had wanted an answer and Michonne delivered it. Next time, the marshal should be more careful with what she asked.

Inside the house, Michonne saw Samara standing unsure in the hallway. Her eyes were on the blond, asleep on the couch by the fire. The two women had moved some of the furniture around so that the couch, coffee table and armchair would be closer to their only source of warmth.

"You want me to tell her?"

The marshal shook her head. This was something she had to do.

Michonne nodded and gave them some privacy.

With a deep inhale, Samara took off her hat and sunglasses. Sitting on the coffee table, she gently shook the blond awake.

"Wake up."

Sickly pale blue eyes regarded the marshal without focus.

"Can this wait?" Her Florida drawl could barely be discerned from the sleep haze and her cheek wound. "I'm tired."

"It can't."

Rubbing her tired eyes, Andrea yawned deeply before straightening herself on the couch. The movements wore her out immediately as she sat on her behind, breathing heavily.

Blue eyes focused more intently on the marshal's somber expression. "What's with that face?"

"Andrea…I found Shane."

The blonde's breath hitched. Her sleep haze seemed to be a thing of the past as she was now fully aware of the situation.

"Where?"

"In the fields." Samara pushed the wayward locks from her face. "Look, there's something you need to know."

"He's a walker, ain't he?" Andrea asked listlessly as if it was to be expected. Nobody died from other causes these days.

"He was. He was already down when I found him, but…" The marshal leaned forward, her elbows on her knees and an intense look in her olive eyes. "Andrea, he had been shot. He didn't turn from a bite."

The cogs turned.

"That night," Andrea's brows furrowed in remembrance. "Rick was with him."

Samara nodded.

"That son of a bitch…" Andrea leaned back on the couch, an incredulous huff escaping her. "He killed him."

"He didn't do it in cold blood. Grimes wasn't like that." Even with how deranged Shane was, Rick wouldn't have killed him just because he was an inconvenience. "There must have been a reason."

"Are you defendin' him?"

"No, but Shane wasn't exactly easy to get along with. Maybe they got into an argument and it spiraled into something nasty and Rick couldn't see any other way but to…"

"Shoot him."

"Yeah…"

They stood in silence, the occasional crackle of the burnt logs breaking the quiet. Both women were engulfed in their own thoughts.

"We should bury him." Andrea spoke more to herself. "Him and the others."

Samara's frown returned as she immediately saw the flaws. "After you get better, sure."

"No, today."

"Andrea, we have more important things to do than—"

"Than what?" The blonde glowered. This was one aspect of the marshal she could never grow used to—this indifference concerning those that had no part of her inner circle. "Bury our dead? Jimmy's inside that RV, Patricia is somewhere around. We don't let our dead stay out in the open like carrion, we bury them."

"Listen to me." All softness disappeared from the Native, replaced with hard, cold truth. "The ground is rock solid. After a winter like this, there is no chance in hell we'll dig through that earth without an excavator. They'll have to wait until the snow melts…or we burn them."

"Hell no." The mere thought of that idea had her stomach churn. "We burn walkers because they're nothin' and one less of them litterin' the earth is a service to mankind."

"Cremation isn't sacrilegious." To Samara, burning a body was easier than burying them. Cleaner, too. "In my culture—"

"We're not Navajo, Samara. Neither was Shane, Patricia or Jimmy. We hold funerals. We put stones on graves, we don't spread their ashes."

The wall in Samara's eyes was impenetrable. Not even a hint of a thought slipped her as she considered Andrea's words.

"Once spring hits, I'll dig the holes myself. I promise."

Andrea's shoulders sagged. That wasn't what she had wanted, but she wasn't in any state to do anything about it. She was bound to this couch and will be for who knows how long. For now, she could only agreed with the notion and hope that the woman will keep to her word.

"I know this sounds horrible, but we don't have a choice right now. It's not like they're going anywhere. Try not to think about it."

"How can I?" Andrea asked despondently. "Every time I look out the window I'm reminded of everything. And now, I know that three of our people are out there scattered on those fields. How am I supposed to feel about it?"

"Don't feel anything." Samara shrugged, her eyes empty. "It's better if you don't."

"I'm a lot of things, Samara, and indifferent ain't one of them." Pale eyes regarded the marshal hard. "I can't be like you. I can't not care about the few lives left on this god forsaken earth, especially since the people we're talkin' about used to share the same living space as us."

"Nobody said you have to be like me. Just...Try to keep that empathy of yours for people that are still alive and actually matter. The dead are just that, dead. They have no use for your sympathy."

Samara placed a comforting hand on the blond's shoulder before rising from the table. There wasn't anything else she could do. She wasn't good at soothing someone's heartache. For now, Andrea needed to grieve on her own, something neither of them had done since leaving the farm.

"Samara…"

With one foot away from leaving the room, Samara paused to listen to Andrea's words.

"What if we just take 'em to the shed? At least then I won't have to worry steppin' on them every time I go outside."

Since her back was turned, Andrea didn't get to see the grimace. Not because of the woman's request, but because this meant Samara would have to once again go outside and exhaust her already worn-out body.

Clenching her eyes shut, the marshal wanted nothing more than to refuse, but then the blond would call her cold-hearted and would stop talking to her for a certain amount of time. Samara really didn't have the patience to go through that again.

She nodded, putting a smile on Andrea's chapped lips.

"Thank you, Samara."

Samara nodded before walking out of the room and up the stairs. If she was about to do this, she wasn't going to do it alone. Michonne will just have to suffer alongside her.


 

The two women heaved as they dragged Shane's dead weight. As they reached the small wooden structure, Samara took his shoulders while Michonne his legs and they hauled him into the shed. After dropping him to the floor unceremoniously, they took a minute to breathe.

"I can't believe we're doing this." Michonne panted. She had been minutes away from falling asleep in an actual bed when Samara had dropped the bomb on her. "I understand she wants to bury her friends, but this is disgusting. These people are dead and Old World death rites don't apply anymore."

"I hear you." Samara straightened out as she wiped the sweat from her forehead. "But we all have our coping mechanisms—I bury my feelings and you talk to walkers."

Michonne's scathing glare had the marshal chuckling inside. That was revenge.

The sword-wielder pushed past her on the way out, earning a small grin from the marshal. Talking about her particularities never failed in pissing Michonne off.

Picking up Jimmy's remains had been a sordid affair. Clumps of bones with rotted flesh still clung to them and his skull disconnected from the spine that still had hair and meat and one glassy eye. When Samara picked up the head, the eyeball fell out of the socket and insects crawled out.

—That was as much as her stomach could take.

"Oh Gods…" Samara spat bile in the snow as she stood hunched over herself.

Michonne soon exited the RV with Jimmy's bones wrapped up in a bed sheet. She tapped the marshal's back as the woman wiped her mouth and nodded to indicate that she was alright. Michonne wasn't in any state better, her dark skin paler than ever as she reluctantly held the remains.

Next and last was Patricia.

Samara lead the way towards the spot where she remembered the oldest sister perished. It was on the right side of the house, somewhere near a large tree.

Reaching the sight, both women shuffled through snow to find the remains.

The marshal's foot caught onto some tattered clothing. She signaled to Michonne to approach so they could dig up the corpse. As they moved the snow to the side, they discovered human bones stripped clean of meat. Picking up the tattered beige jacket, she tried to remember if this was what the Greene woman had worn that night. Nothing in her memories seemed to spark, so her eyes then traveled to the bones for answers.

"Fuck, I don't even know if this is Patricia or not."

Maybe if her straw blond hair had been left behind Samara could have been sure, but it seemed the walkers had eaten everything.

"Doesn't matter if it is." Michonne started collecting the bones. "It's the thought that counts. Let Andrea think it's them even if it isn't, so we can be done with this."

Samara threw the jacket away and picked up what Michonne gathered. Having no one left to collect, they headed back to the shed so they could deposit Jimmy and Patricia.

At the end, they breathed in relief knowing that this was their last ordeal for the day. The sun was finally starting to set and they had to focus on barricading the house for the night.

Leaving the shed, they came upon Andrea who was slowly making her way towards them. Michonne was the first to reach her and tried to redirect the blond back inside, but she refused adamantly. Michonne gave the marshal a pointed look to which Samara understood—Andrea could say her goodbyes and that was it.

The two castaway women looked at the shed in silence. Andrea made no move to go inside as she feared seeing Jimmy, Patricia or Shane in their current sate. The blonde would rather remember them as they once were, full of life.

The orange hue of the sun overshadowed them, the silence becoming too suffocating. There was a strange hollowness growing inside her that shouldn't be there, not in this moment. Andrea felt like she was betraying her earlier words thrown at the marshal. Like the bodies inside the shed held almost no importance when they should.

"You got anythin' to say? A prayer or a last goodbye?" Andrea grasped at straws to try and ignite her heart from its strange stillness.

"Not really. We weren't exactly that close."

"Huh…" Andrea gripped the blanket around her tighter, the emptiness never leaving her heart. "Surprisingly, neither do I."

Chapter Text

"Well?"

"Two." Samara lowered the binoculars as she eyed the people next to the Chevrolet Sail. "One girl in her teens and one man around mid forty. They look relatively healthy if not a bit haggard." She turned to the two women beside her with a smirk. "I think we got something good here."

The three women were hiding behind the corner of a building. They had been scavenging a small town when they heard the running engine of a car. Following the noise, they were led to a small supermarket and waited to see what they were dealing with.

"You think they have anythin'?" Andrea asked a she looked through the binoculars for a better view. A month ago, the blond had been barely able to leave the sick bed and now she was standing on her own two feet, no traces of pneumonia in her body. Andrea had made a complete recovery in less than three weeks.

"Only one way to find out."

A pale hand landed atop Samara's shoulder, stopping her. The Native gave the blond a pointed look, but her smirk was friendly. "I know the rules. No shooting unless they draw first."

"Just checkin'." Andrea eyed the marshal skeptically. "You have a tendency to forget."

"Only when it's necessary."

—Marauding.

To some it was vile, to others a necessary evil. When push came to shove, there was no other option but to embrace the vicious nature of man and pray you don't get a taste for it. The women had ran out of food and necessity pushed them to reach out to other towns in hopes of a few morsels. Other than finding a few snacks they hadn't been very lucky in their search. So, when an opportunity presented itself in the form of other survivors that had a fifty-fifty chance of carrying food, they didn't waste it.

All three women checked their weapons and feed system. Andrea cocked her rifle as she watched Michonne unsheathe her katana with a practiced flick of her wrist, the blade's metal glinting in the morning sun.

They all had their own set of weapons. Andrea had her hunting rifle with scope—she was the marksman of the group—along with a handgun and a knife. Michonne had her trusty katana, a handgun and a knife while Samara held three handguns with the silencer, a knife in her boot and her machete. One of her handguns was empty while the others were almost full. Ammunition wasn't something they were abundant in either.

Andrea watched as Samara placed her fiber skeleton mask and sunglasses back over her face. She could never understand why the Native insisted on this getup—the mask, the shades, the hat and the Confederate coat. It made her look creepy and frankly, if Andrea hadn't known her, she would have shot her on sight just because of that the damned mask. This whole 'Halloween costume' disturbed her which probably was the marshal's intention.

They discussed strategy—Samara will pillage the car and be the lookout while Andrea and Michonne will round up the ones inside and bring them out.

As Samara rose to her feet and passed the crouching Andrea, she playfully slapped her over the side of her head.

"Softy…"

In mild annoyance, Andrea hit her back to which Samara grinned. With a huff, the blond followed as did Michonne and silently approached the supermarket.

As Samara watched the two women enter silently into the building, she once again perused the street. It was clean.

It was strange how void the town was, but it only told the marshal that walkers were most likely hiding and that loud noises were not a good idea. Nothing was as it seemed these days. It was February now and the snow had melted away, leaving only some patches of iced-over fluff. The coldness hadn't relented though as Samara and the others still had to keep their full winter garb on at all times.

It had been a rollercoaster of a month, Samara thought as she readjusted her hat. She and Michonne have had to make many scavenger hunts as food seemed to be scarce in the area. They were even forced to make one trip to Griffin, a city much bigger than what they were used to. While it had been productive, it had been too dangerous.

Opening the driver's door, she found the keys still in contact and in the backseat, a backpack filled with clothes and some pills still inside their boxes.

Useless.

Thank the Gods that winter was almost over. Moving around will become much easier and once the vegetation started blooming, they would leave for greener pastures. Nothing eventful had happened at the farm. Two or three walkers per week and the rest of the time the farm was as quiet as a tomb. They haven't even seen signs of humans since leaving the butcher shop way down south until now. The wounds they had sustained had healed nicely and Samara was glad that she managed to go a month without acquiring new ones. It was a welcome break from her usual fast paced life.

The front of the shop opened, breaking Samara's concentration. Michonne was the first to back out with her katana at ready. Next were the two people with their hands behind their heads—they were both scared and the girl was crying silent tears. Andrea ended the procession, holding her rifle to their backs.

"Did they give you any trouble?"

Michonne shook her head before pointing at the rucksack on her back. "They found some food inside. Not much, but enough. What about you?"

"Found some peanuts, clothes and a few pills."

"Pl—Please." The man's voice broke as he held his arms up. "Don't hurt my daughter. Kill me if you have to, but not her."

"Keep quiet." Andrea nudged the man in the shoulder with the barrel of her rifle.

Samara paid no attention to the man as she rounded up on the car and opened the trunk.

"There's nothin' there!" The man took a step forward before stopping dead in his tracks as the tip of Michonne's blade touched his throat. "Please…We ain't got no food, only what we found inside the store. We're searchin' for some ourselves."

"Get back." Michonne narrowed her eyes as she pricked his tender skin.

Inside, Samara found other bags—clothes, camping equipment, books, but no food. But there was an ice box right at the back, concealed by all the other baggage.

"What's in the box?"

The man turned ten shades paler. "N-Nothin'.

"Now, that's a lie." Samara smirked as she fingered the handle of her machete. "It's not a good idea to lie to me, stranger."

Fingers touched the lid.

"Don't open that! Please!" He tried to reach Samara, but Michonne decked him in the face with the handle of her blade. The man staggered but didn't fall, blood pouring out of his nose. His daughter screamed bloody murder as she huddled to her parent.

"Shut up, girl, unless you want me to hit you too."

The girl forcefully settled down after Michonne's threatening growl.

Samara opened the box. What the—?

There was meat inside.

Samara looked over to the man on the ground. He didn't look like a hunter and they had no gear for it so why hadn't he wanted her to see? Something wasn't right.

Unsheathing her machete, she poked around, pushing the meat to the side until—

Samara's eyes widened behind the dark lenses. She carefully leaned away from the box, face set in stone.

"We got a problem."

The women looked over.

"What is it?"

Samara's gaze wandered over the contents of the ice box with dread.

—Human fingers.

"There's human meat inside this container." Dark shades glinted ominously as the marshal slowly approached the two strangers, her hand on the handle of her gun. "They're cannibals."

Andrea's face fell in horror as Michonne's eyes narrowed to slits.

"No, we're not! Please!"

"Then why the hell do you have severed fingers placed in an ice box? I don't see you or the girl missing any."

"Get down. Now!" Michonne got behind the man and kicked him in the back of his knees. He fell down, his daughter right after him in fright. She was on the verge of hysterics as tears mingled with saliva and snot.

"Please, spare us! We've had a rough winter. We couldn't find any food. My daughter had to eat—"

"So you ate someone?" Andrea couldn't decide between feeling rage or disgust or both. "How twisted are you?"

"You have no idea how hard it was! Tryin' to stay alive on nothin'! We were skin and bones! We could barely move and then Edna…She was too sick, too old." The man's head lowered shamefully as his voice was nothing more than a whisper. "She died and we thought…we thought—"

"That you'd just eat her like the undead would?" Samara spat at him, her features contorted.

"We had no choice! I wanted us to live!" He yelled as the tears now spilled freely down his cheeks. His daughter crawled into his arms, trying to make herself as small as possible. "Please, don't kill us! Anyone would have done the same!"

"No…" Andrea shook her head slowly. "No, we wouldn't have. I'd rather starve to death than become a savage." Never, not even when she hadn't eaten in days, had she thought of feasting on another person. It was immoral and inhuman.

"You think I wanted to do this?" He looked at all three women, judging him with their cold, harsh eyes. The eyes of killers. "I didn't! I could barely stand to look at myself after! But I did what I had to do to keep my daughter alive! Please, understand that! I'm just a guy put in an impossible situation!"

Pause.

Samara turned towards the sword-wielder. Even with her face completely hidden, Michonne could still understand what the marshal was silently asking, but she wouldn't participate this time. Michonne shook her head making the marshal's lips thin in annoyance.

–If the sword-wielder won't help then she'll have to do it herself.

"Andrea, step away."

The blond saw her companion tense in the arms, signaling that she was ready to shoot to kill.

"No! I told you we don't hurt them unless they try to hurt us first!"

"They ate a person."

"And we've killed people." The blond countered resolutely. "And I don't see you stoppin' any day now."

"Are you seriously lecturing me right now? I swear it's the same shit with you every damn time." Samara dropped her gun arm as she walked away muttering profanities under her breath.

The sword-wielder understood her predicament. She wasn't happy either, but this was a strange situation. These people weren't crazy and they weren't rabid for meat either, and in some dark corner of Michonne's mind she understood the desperation, but still…

"Thank you!" The man grabbed at the blond's pant leg, his eyes shining with joy and relief. "Thank you so mu—"

The man fell down again as Andrea introduced him to the butt end of her rifle.

"Shut up, I didn't do it for you. If you'd been alone I wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet in your skull. I understand that you had to keep your daughter safe. Lord knows, I'd have done anythin' for my sister, but you crossed a line even I can't condone." She crouched low so that the man understood her completely. "Now you listen good. We're gonna take everythin' you have and leave you with your lives."

"But how are we gonna survive with nothin'?!" His breath quickened as he imagined surviving the long stretch of road with no supplies.

Michonne had the answer. She walked towards the back of the car and grimaced at the contents inside. She placed the lid back and dumped the box in front of the two strangers.

Her intention was clear--Reap what you sow.

"Come on, let's get out of here!" Samara called out to the two as she sat in the driver's seat.

Andrea threw the metal bat she had taken from the man before heading off towards the car, her eyes kept cautiously on them. Michonne climbed into the back and Andrea in the passenger seat and wasted no time in driving away with the car.

Andrea watched the wing mirror as the man tried to chase the car, but his human legs could not keep up and soon stopped, leaning over himself in exertion.

"I don't understand it…" Andrea said as she kept watching the man until he was nothing more than a crumb.

"No shit." Samara took off her sunglasses so Andrea could see her disgruntlement. "Leaving them alive like that. You're a goddamn idiot sometimes, I swear."

"They weren't dangerous. You saw 'em. They were just desperate."

"Screw that!" Samara threw her sunglasses on the dashboard making them bounce around. "We both know what desperation tastes like and I can tell you, I've never once felt the need to chomp on human flesh."

"It was bound to happen." Michonne said from the back as she sheathed her katana and placed it in her lap. "Ever watched a post-apocalyptic movie? There are always cannibals at the end of the world. It's logical they would appear, especially after a winter like this."

Samara glared at the woman through the rearview mirror. "Don't tell me you understand because I'd just call you a goddamn liar."

"What the hell are you so mad about? That we didn't kill them?" Andrea knew Samara had a vicious streak that sometimes toed a thin line, but not like this.

Samara's eyes widened incredulously before she ripped the mask off her face.

"We just let two cannibals go! And what the hell kind of question is that?! I'm not a goddamn monster, Andrea! I'm just thinking rationally here. Who's to say they won't do it again? Ever thought about that? What if the next people they meet they bash their heads open and continue what they started with sweet old Edna?"

Andrea was quiet.

"You don't know, do you? And I'm the monster here…"

"You don't know either, Samara." Michonne kicked the back of the marshal's seat. "Don't jump down her throat just because you didn't get your way back there."

The Native's glare was scathing.

"It would've been a waste of bullets, either way. They were no threat to us and there was nothing to gain from killing them. If they decide to debase themselves further, let them. It's not our problem."

An exasperated groan resounded from the driver. One was Gandhi with a rifle, the other a wild card. These were the moments the marshal hated the most—when their opinions differentiated. They worked like a well oiled machine when they were of the same mind, but when they picked their sides all cards were out. One wanted to rid the world of such monsters, another wanted to give them a second chance and the other one just didn't care.

Samara didn't like this. Unity is what kept them going all this time, what kept them alive. It wasn't often they came across a situation they couldn't agree on or that couldn't be reached to a conclusion that left each party content. She did not need a repeat of the Atlanta group.

Fuck it…Out of sight, out of mind.

"I wonder if this is what the world will come to." Andrea mused as she watched the trees go by rapidly. "Savages. Brutes. Cannibals…" A pale hand rubbed her tired features. "Have we regressed so much in such a short amount of time?"

The marshal snorted cynically. "Are you actually surprised? The three of us are not exactly the most morally right of people these days. You remember how I was when we first met and only three months had passed since the virus broke out. Let nine months go by without a society that has rules and punishments and this is what you get—no man's land."

"It just feels unreal." Her head rested on the cool glass of the window, eyes drifting with the scenery. "Like a dream…"

"Or a nightmare." Michonne added as she adjusted in the backseat for a short nap. They still had some way to go until they arrived at the farm and a break was very much needed.


 

"All right, so we have four bags of cheese puffs—which two are expired—two 1L bottles of Cola, a peanut bag, two bags of beef jerky, a can of tuna, three cans of beans and pork, some pills for headaches and nausea, and clothes. And…jackpot!" A pink plump pack was raised like a grand-prized trophy. "We have tampons."

"You're kiddin'…" Andrea smiled like a kid of Christmas Eve. "Oh, thank god! I don't think I can stand wearin' rags anymore."

Samara smirked as she reclined on the aged couch. "You and me both."

They had arrived back at the farm not ten minutes ago and they were currently examining their bounty. As always, they gathered in the living room where they spent the majority of their time. Separating, while ideal, was something they couldn't afford in case of emergency, even at night.

"It's not enough food." The two women broke out of their joyful haze as Michonne looked over the food calculatingly. "Good for a few days, but that's it."

Andrea sighed forlornly. "We're goin' back out again, ain't we?"

The marshal leaned over her knees, her fingers intertwined. Going out was not something Samara was looking forward to. She hated risking their lives so often on these excursions because last time they stumbled upon metal-hand guy.

"I think we should try hunting again."

Michonne gave Samara a deadpan look.

"I've caught animals before, didn't I?"

"With bullets. We can't waste the little ammo we have left on your escapades."

"Then I'll try the bow again."

A snort came from the blond sitting next to the Native.

"Thanks for the encouragement." Samara smiled fallaciously. "It's really appreciated."

The woman gave the marshal a guilty look, but the damned smirk couldn't be contained. "I'm sorry, it's just that the last time you used that thing, you got so angry you threw it at a tree."

The trip to Griffin weeks ago had secured Samara a compound bow complete with a quiver and a dozen arrows. The only thing she had to do to get it was wrestle them off a walker. Needless to say, it hadn't exactly been easy.

To be truthful, the marshal had no idea what she was doing with it. She had made a small target near the house and practiced every day, but to the marshal's disappointment, it didn't work. Samara would sometimes rage quit, throwing the bow somewhere and leaving it there for a few hours before sheepishly picking it up once again.

"Look, it's either I try hunting with that stupid bow or we go back to Griffin tomorrow."

That soured the sword-wielder's mood, but neither noticed that Andrea wasn't even paying attention to them anymore. There was an uneasiness about her, her head tilted as if in deep thought.

"No, it's too risky. We riled up the walkers last time we were there."

"It's been over a week, they must have moved on since."

"I don't kn—"

"Do you hear that?" Andrea's southern lilt broke through the two women's conversation like a whip.

Both lapsed into silence as they listened intently. Shuffling feet, groaning, moaning—this is what they kept their ears sharp for.

"I don't hear anything."

"Listen."

Seconds ticked by.

A rumble.

Samara looked towards her dark companion in inquiry and mouthed, 'Thunder?'

Michonne shook her head slowly, her grip on her katana knuckle-white. Something was wrong and it wasn't the weather.

They heard another rumble, only this more succinct. All three women's thoughts resonated at the same time.

Car.

Michonne wasted no time as she put the fire out while Andrea and Samara picked up the baggage strewn around the room. Once finished, the sword-wielder pushed the window's cover and peaked through the glass. Her apprehension turned to reality as a truck drove down the dirt road.

Michonne raised one finger and the marshal nodded in understanding—one car.

The women moved with the bags as they set in motion their contingency plan in case of attack of the human kind. The plan they had agreed on was that their fort was the second floor since there was only one way up and it was through a staircase which they barricaded a while ago.

Atop the stairs, Samara and Michonne jumped over the sacks of bricks piled atop another. Michonne was the one that had found the bricks near the shed. Most likely Hershel had wanted to build something but never got the chance to once the virus broke out. The marshal, upon seeing them, had the idea to gather them into sacks. They needed shields in case of an attack and wood wasn't sturdy enough. Bullets would just blast right through them, but bricks…that was a different story. Stack enough of them and you had yourself a superior shield.

While Samara and Michonne loaded their guns against the rigid brick wall, Andrea ran into the first room that had a window towards the front of the house and observed the car.

"Fuck!" Samara hissed as she cocked her Glock. "How did they find this place? We took down the mailbox!"

Michonne shook her head unknowingly before a stray thought gave her pause. "Maybe it's the Atlanta group."

Something akin to an electric current passed through Samara.

"It's not them."

Michonne eyed the marshal shrewdly. She hated to break her bubble, but the chances were high. "They're the only people that know of this place."

"And so do others that lived in this area."

"There's three people!" They heard Andrea call out. "One's tall and bulky and the others are lean and a few inches shorter. I'm pretty sure one of the shorter one's a woman. They're all wearing black police helmets and the shorter guy is in full body armor."

Samara frowned in thought. "That sounds like riot gear. Damn, that means they all have bullet-proof vests. Andrea, what weapons do they have?"

"Shotguns, rifles, handguns, two bats and a machete is all I see."

"They're armed to the teeth and they have riot gear." Michonne mused calculatingly before turning to the marshal, her features set in stone. "Don't prisons also have that sort of thing?"

The color drain out of the marshal's face.

"You don't think…"

The sword-wielder looked at her pointedly. It was probable.

"Shit!" Samara bit her lower lip as dread gripped her bearing. To have a repeat of last month would cripple their group exponentially, maybe even break them.

No, I refuse. I'll die before that happens.

"Doesn't matter, they're not leaving this farm alive. We know this place and we know how to use it to our advantage. Andrea, come here!" As soon as the blond joined, Samara started speaking. "Now listen, Michonne you know what you have to do. The moment you hear gunshots you do your part and let us take out the rest. If one of them manages to leave the house, you take him down, but don't kill him. We need to know what we're dealing with." Samara rolled the fiber mask back up her face and gazed at all three women with hellfire in her eyes. "Make every bullet count."

Michonne nodded and left. Her part was jumping down the roof—they had moved the car right underneath the respective window for her to have a safe landing—and lock the front door once the three people got inside. The back door they had already blocked with a few well placed planks nailed in deeply. The women hadn't needed the door since they had other escape routes and so decided to board it, just in case.

Andrea and Samara set up their defensive position and waited. The first step on the porch had them tense as sweat poured down their brows. Silently, the steps moved towards the front and with a silent click, the door opened. One by one, three people came inside in a triangle formation. Good thing the women had covered all the windows, this way the light didn't get out to attract attention and inside was semi-dark, easy to miss things.

The bulky man, which turned out to be a black man in his mid-thirties, was the first to see the writing on the wall.

"What the hell? Did you guys wri—"

Bang!

Andrea's bullet hit the man in the middle of his chest and down he went.

The two women opened fire in the confusion.

Samara heard the screams and curses as bullets flew. The interlopers took up their guns and didn't waste time in retaliating. The woman covered the full body armored man as he dragged the unmoving man towards the door, but as they tried the handle, Samara could almost feel their panic as the door proved locked. From outside, Michonne had accomplished her task.

The one that Andrea shot stirred, got up with the help of full body armor man and limped towards the living area. It seemed Samara's theory on all of them having bullet-proof vests was correct.

One of Samara's bullets hit home in the thigh of the shooting assailant making her yelp. She was young by the sound of her voice. Andrea hissed as the girl started shooting again, this time aggressively.

—Blood trickled onto the floor.

"You alright?" Samara saw a patch of crimson rapidly soaking the top of Andrea's jacket.

The blond nodded, wincing as she rolled her shoulder. "Bitch just grazed me."

From outside, Michonne watched the chaos unravel. It was time for her to join in. Aiming her gun, the sword-wielder pulled the trigger. The glass broke with a piercing crack and the others ducked and covered behind the couch to avoid the onslaught.

Samara cursed as she had no more visual of their targets. It was up to Michonne to flush them out.

Michonne narrowed her eyes at the silence on the other end of the battle field. Whatever the three of them were doing, she didn't like it. In a flash, two guns appeared from behind the back of the couch and Michonne ran. Just as she jumped over the railing, the wall of the house exploded with a shower of bullets and debris. Landing on her feet, the sword-wielder waited until their bullets ran out.

Andrea and Samara ducked behind the bricks as one of them rounded up on the corner and shot at them, clipping Samara's left ear in the process.

"Fuck!" Her hand came from her ear with blood splattered on the dark leather. A few inches in and it would have been 'Goodnight, Samara'. The worst part was that except for a low buzzing sound, Samara couldn't hear anything on her left side.

Andrea reacted as the anger from her earlier injury hadn't subsided. A click marking the emptiness of her clip made the blond growl. There was only one magazine left for the rifle so she needed to make every bullet count.

On the count of two, both women rose from the cover and started shooting. The girl downstairs retreated from the corner as a hail of bullets perforated the floors and wall.

"Hey! Whoever you are shootin' at us, we're not here to harm you!"

The marshal frowned as her finger paused on the trigger. Something about the girl's voice…

"I know this place! This is my father's home!"

Samara and Andrea simultaneously choked on their own spit. A look of utter shock passed between them, rendering them mute. No fucking way did they just hear that.

"Did she just say…?" Andrea whispered in utter disbelief as she slowly lowered her rifle. Peeking over the top of the brick sacks, the blond looked at the masked girl that peered over the edge. "Maggie, is that you?"

The girl froze.

More of the helmet appeared from over the corner. A gloved hand reached for the transparent plastic shield and pushed it over the helmet.

There it was. Her face.

—Maggie Greene.

Andrea couldn't even categorize Maggie's expression—awe, relief, shock, incredulity. All of that and more.

"Andrea?"

The blond stood at full height, her anger and need for battle all but forgotten in the face of such an extraordinary happening. Just a few feet from her was a person that the blond had never thought she would set eyes on again. A person she had chosen to put behind.

Movement at the corner of her eye.

Pale blue eyes shifted towards a gun aimed at those behind the Greene girl.

"Michonne, no!"

Too late. The bullet exploded out of the gun and found a target.

"Oh, God! Glenn!"

Samara's eyes widened further from behind the brick shield. Glenn's here too?

In her haste to get down the stairs, Andrea almost tripped over the brick wall. Olive eyes followed the blond as she reached the first floor. As her initial astonishment concluded, Samara was left with a tart taste in her mouth and a clear mind.

Glenn and Maggie with an unknown man. A new member of the group maybe? Or maybe they splintered off from the Atlanta group and were on their own?

With haste, Samara followed the blond's path. Once passed the corner, she saw Maggie crouched by the body in riot armor behind the sofa. The helmet was off his head and she could see Glenn's mop of raven hair in the girl's lap. His eyes were closed and he wasn't moving.

Fuck…Michonne killed him.

Her heart fluttered in dread, but it wasn't as strong as it used to be all those months ago when she still saw the group on a daily basis. Now, Samara just saw Glenn as an old acquaintance. Like a high-school classmate you hadn't seen in decades—familiar, but not enough to be emotionally invested in.

Tears poured out of Maggie as she patted Glenn on the cheek repeatedly. There was no puddle of blood around Glenn's head and Samara could see the embedded bullet in the helmet. He was still alive which made him the luckiest Korean left on the planet.

"Come on, babe. Wake up!"

A scrape against the wooden floor caught Samara's attention. The black man had his gun up and aimed at the oblivious Andrea whose whole attention was on Glenn. The marshal's stomach plummeted as she saw his finger applying pressure.

The man stopped short of pulling the trigger as a sharp blade pressed to his throat.

"Don't even think about it." Michonne threatened. "Drop the gun."

The weapon fell to the floor as he held his hands up in surrender.

Glenn groaned in pain. He had the worse headache ever and there was an annoying buzz in his ears. What the hell happened? One moment he thought he heard Andrea and then nothing. His eyes opened to see Maggie's concerned face, only it was in double and spinning lightly.

"What happened? My head hurts."

"Your helmet got shot." Maggie sniffed as she stroked his cheek. "Then you fell and hit your head."

"Oh." Glenn brought his hand to the back of his head and saw tiny spots of blood on his fingers. "For a moment there I thought I was dead. I actually heard Andrea."

He felt a tug and his attention came back to his girlfriend. Maggie was smiling tenderly as her eyes moved to something on his side. Following her gaze, what he came upon had his mind go blank.

Andrea.

Distorted and in double, but it was her, and she was kneeling right next to his prone body.

There was a tense silence, neither party making the first move.

"…Andrea?"

The blond smiled.

The effect was immediate.

Forgetting his injury, Glenn jumped Andrea with a tight hug.

"Holy shit, Andrea! You're alive!"

The marshal leaned against the wall separating the living from the hallways and watched the happy reunion with a detached gaze. A part of her felt joy at seeing two former companions, to know that they were alive despite everything, but the other part was already forming up questions. She needed information—where they've been, what they've been doing and where they were right now.

"This is the Atlanta group?" Michonne asked as she watched Andrea embracing the two young ones.

"Yeah. That's Glenn and Maggie and he's…" Samara's eyes connected with the man kneeling on the floor. "I don't know who he is."

Maggie, upon hearing her name, looked behind her. The other person that had been shooting at them was another woman with long black hair kept in a low ponytail, a long coat that she recognized as Confederate, army boots, leather gloves and a menacing mask hiding half of her face, but those narrowed, cold green eyes and russet skin were unmistakable.

"Oh my god…" Maggie's words shook with something akin to unbelieving trepidation. "Samara."

Her croak caught Samara's attention and her gaze settled back on the farm girl.

"Hey, Maggie."

Glenn's arms slid from Andrea as he looked at the Native in shocked wonder. Glenn blinked hard to dispel the haze, wondering if this was some hallucination brought on by his jarred brain, but no matter what he did the woman wouldn't disappear from his vision.

"Is it really you?"

Samara snorted as she pulled the mask down. "Who else?"

A blink.

Glenn laughed loudly as he tried to stand on shaky legs. Andrea had to help him, but as soon as he stood straight he inelegantly walked over to the marshal and fell into her embrace, his laughter still on his lips.

The corner of Samara's mouth twitched. While she had no problem with Glenn hugging her, Samara was rather hesitant in doing it at all. Old memories stirred and she felt a knee-jerk reaction in pushing Glenn away. He represented them and she had no desire to be around them.

"I can't believe this! You're alive too!"

As Samara's hand rose to pull him away by the back of his jacket it paused at the last moment and kindly settled on his back. Samara sighed internally as she came to the conclusion that a scene was unneeded right now, so she half-heartedly hugged the Korean back.

—The marshal would never admit it, but the hug actually made her feel slightly better.

"But how?" Glenn pulled away from her, his fingers tightly on her shoulders. His teary eyes searched for answers, anything to tell him her story. "Daryl told us you were dead."

"We'll, I'm not."

"You have no idea how great it is to see you guys again!" He let the marshal go as he wiped his eyes of the accumulated salty liquid. The smile on his face was warm as his gaze exchanged between the two women, still in awe of what this day actually brought. Glenn had believed that it would be a depressing sight to be back at the farm, but now he felt a euphoria he hadn't in a long time. "Wait till the others see you. We haven't had good news like this in some time."

Samara blanched.

"Who says we want to see them?"

Glenn's joy cracked minutely. "What do you mean? You're coming with us…right?"

"Glenn."

Everyone's attention riveted over to the man still kneeling on the ground with Michonne's blade pressed to his jugular. It seemed that in their joy they had forgotten the other occupants of the room.

"Can somebody tell her to put that sword down?"


 

Everyone was gathered at the kitchen table, patching up their wounds. Michonne was cleaning up Andrea's graze while Glenn was tending to Maggie's thigh. Luckily, the bullet went clean through and now all Glenn had to do was clean the wound and patch it up until they got to Hershel.

"This is gonna hurt." Glenn warned his girlfriend as he unscrewed the lid of a small bottle of sanitary alcohol.

"I know." She whispered as a grimace contorted her features. Placing a belt between her teeth, she bit on it harshly. Her scream was muffled by the leather, but not enough as some of it got past. Maggie's fist crashed against the table as the pain practically had her seeing stars.

The unknown man had taken off his vest to inspect the damage—there was a patch of red skin the size of a fist right in the middle of his chest. Poking it, he winced at the extreme soreness. That was going to hurt for at least a week.

Andrea hissed before biting her fist once Michonne applied the same liquid over her cut. It stung like a bitch!

Samara leaned against the defunct fridge with a towel pressed to her ear to stop the bleeding. The buzz was still present, but it wasn't as loud as before. Attentively, she watched everyone as they fussed over themselves.

This is taking too long, Samara thought with a frown. The anticipation was killing her.

"Glenn, where are you holed up?"

"There's a prison outside of Newnan. We've been living there since December."

So, metal-hand guy and his cronies didn't come from there then. If there was one thing the marshal knew was that the sheriff would have never let someone like that live right next to his family. Samara huffed in little to no amusement as she shared a knowing look with the other two women. They were all thinking about the same thing—

"Did you by any chance find a prisoner there?" Samara asked as she felt irony crawling up her spine. "Mid-twenties to early thirties, black, a bit short?"

"Yeah." Glenn paused, confused. "How did you know that?"

"We met him." Andrea pointed towards the ghastly scar that traveled across her cheek.

Glenn's eyes widened as he only now saw the scar. Before, he had been too overjoyed to see past the fact that both the blond and Native were alive. "He did that to you?"

"What do you think?" Andrea snapped in irritation before wincing as Michonne slid the needle and thread in her skin.

"We thought that he died." Maggie heaved as cold sweat poured down her forehead. "He ran out of the prison before we could shoot him and there were walkers outside the fence. We didn't think he'd get too far."

"Oh, he's dead alright." The blond's pale blues alluded to icebergs. "I made sure of that."

Maggie frowned in slight unease at the coldness in the woman's eyes. Despite what the blond had done to her sister, she now knew that it hadn't been with ill intent, but looking at her now, Maggie didn't exactly recognize her—she was a different person entirely.

"How did you manage to secure a prison?" Michonne cut through the silence like a knife through butter. "It must've been filled with walkers."

"It was." The unknown black man finally spoke. "We killed them, cleaned the place up."

"We got a gym, a movie projector, kitchen, medical ward, beds, everything." Glenn smiled as he finished the final touches on the bandage. "It's what we've been looking for—a safe place to live in."

Michonne and Samara glanced at each other pointedly. A safe place in their eyes equaled to a fairyland. They knew that the farm and even the cabin were only temporary locations to live in. Only good enough until the walkers caught up to them and then it was off to the next location. It seemed the Atlanta group still hadn't realized that yet.

"Who's still alive?"

"All of us, except…" Glenn's words cut off as a shadow fell over him. Maggie's slim fingers threaded with his limp ones, giving him strength to speak. Glenn tenderly smiled at her before taking a deep breath and continuing.

"T-Dog. He was bitten."

Andrea gasped, her hand covering her mouth in horror.

Samara sighed as the impact hit her. Out of all the people, T-Dog had to die. Someone who had a good grip on the new reality they faced had now joined the legion of the dead. Samara had genuinely liked him—he had been a good man, someone who knew how to balance himself between compassion and survival. She might not have always agreed with him, but she knew his heart had been in the right place. For him to die, out of all the people that didn't deserve to still breathe, was distressing.

"How did it happen?" Distantly, Samara heard Andrea's choked question. His death must have hit her harder as she had known the man longer.

She listened silently to Glenn's story—Andrew had broken the locks on the fences and let the walkers roam inside the prison courtyard and once the alarm went off, attracting walkers from all around the prison, everyone ran to save their lives. Glenn had been with Rick, Daryl and two inmates on their way to the generator room to shut down the alarm, Maggie had ended up with Lori and Carl inside another generator room and T-Dog with Carol. They managed to kill the alarm and fought Andrew there, but the slippery man got away for the second time. They didn't get the chance to chase him down as their walker problem was much more immediate. As they searched the building for the others that had scattered, they found T-Dog's body getting devoured. There was nothing they could have done for him. A day later, Daryl found Carol barely conscious hiding inside a room. She told them that T-Dog had been bit soon after the walkers were let loose inside, but kept going on for Carol's sake to keep her alive even with his dying breath and that was what he did—he marched into a hoard of walkers so Carol could have a fighting chance.

As soon as Samara heard that, she internally scoffed. Of course she was involved.

The marshal rubbed her jaw as she could envision the whole scenario. Gods, what a brutal death. Even knowing that he was going to die, to just use himself as a distraction was something Samara couldn't understand. To the Native, being ripped apart by those bastards while you were still alive was her worst nightmare. She wouldn't have had the strength to go through something so gruesome and excruciating, but T-Dog did for someone he cared about, maybe even loved like family, and she respected him deeply for that.

Just not for whom he did it for.

"First was one, now three inmates." Michonne cut the thread before eyeing the Korean. She had let her two companions have their minute of silence, but now she wanted answers and neither Andrea nor Samara seemed capable of rational thought at the moment. "How many are there exactly?"

"Actually, there were five initially." Glenn finally found his voice as he dispelled the difficult memories from his mind. "They had been holed up in the kitchen since the virus broke out, surviving on the storeroom. Only two of them are still alive—Axel and Oscar."

"Killed the others?"

"One of them. He was one of those guys that needed to be locked up for life." Glenn rose from his crouch and washed his hands in a metal bucket. "Another one, Big Tiny, he was bitten and you know what happened to Andrew."

"You trust those two?" Michonne covered up Andrea's stitches with a roll of bandages.

The Korean settled on the edge of the sink with a pensive air as he wiped his hands on a towel. After everything that had happened—"They proved themselves."

Like waking up from a dream, the marshal's mind paddled towards current events. With a heavy heart, she pushed the sorrow back and concentrated on the conversation flowing in front of her. She will grieve the man when she had some privacy.

Samara's eyes turned to the unknown man. "So which one are you, Axel or Oscar?"

It took a second for the man to realize he was being addressed and he didn't appear to support the comparison. "Do I look like an inmate?"

"You look like someone I've never seen before."

"My name's Tyreese."

His name was not exactly what interested Samara. "So, if you're not a prisoner then who are you?"

"We met Tyreese sometime in November, him and his sister, Sasha." Glenn answered as he walked back towards Maggie. "They helped us get out of a tight situation and we decided to stick together."

"We were more back then." Tyreese said in a regretful manner as he gently pulled his wooly jumper back over his chest, careful of the large bruise. "Allen and Donna and their son, Ben. We lost Donna first, then Allen and Ben just split from us. Allen just lost it, he blamed—"

"That's all very sad, but I just wanted a simple answer." Samara cut him off before he fell into some grief-stricken monologue. She had no interest in one.

Tyreese was left speechless as he silently looked to Glenn for an answer. The Korean shrugged, he was more than aware of Samara's callous tendencies and it seemed not even the months apart cured her of them.

As the marshal stood near her companions, Andrea's leg struck out and kicked her in the shin. Samara bit her lip and glared wide-eyed at the blond. What the hell was that for?!

Andrea gave her an annoyed look before shaking her head in incredulity. Sometimes even Andrea couldn't believe the things that came out of the Native's mouth and, even more, for her to remain absolutely oblivious to them.

"Glad to meet you, Tyreese. I'm Andrea." Andrea gave the man a small nod as she sniffled. There were unshed tears clinging to her pale lashes and she quickly wiped them with the sleeve of her coat. "This is Michonne and the insensitive one is Samara."

"You're the ones that got separated from the group last year." Memories of a conversation around the fire gave him insight on the women, or at least two of them if he remembered correctly. "I remember Rick saying something like that."

"Is that what he said?" Samara smiled nastily. "That we got 'separated'?"

Before anyone else could inquire, Michonne intervened. This was not the time for Samara's anger to surface. "Why did you come back here? I suppose there's something here that you want."

"We need my dad's farmin' supplies." Maggie hissed at the strain of standing on her injured leg. She'd never been shot before so this acute pain was something new to her senses. "He wants to start croppin' fields."

Glenn helped the farm girl shoulder much of the burden as he checked the pocket watch Hershel gave him. They had four hours until nightfall and he didn't want to lose any more daylight to complete their task.

"It's getting late so we need to hurry." Glenn helped Maggie get to the couch in the living. The girl settled with a groan as she raised her injured leg to sit on the armrest. She needed to keep it elevated, her father's words coming to mind.

"You should start packing your things." Glenn gave the three women a serious look. He was not leaving without them, if they wanted to or not. "Tyreese and I will get the tools. We'll leave once we're done."


 

Olive eyes studied the two men outside as they moved a manual plow to the truck's bed.

"Why the hell should we go with them? We're better off on our own."

The three of them had relocated upstairs in Hershel's old room with their bags at the foot of his bed, ready even before Glenn and Maggie drove here. The women needed to converse privately and sort this whole situation out before time ran out.

"They have a prison. That's a good enough reason." Michonne supplemented from her place on the armchair, her katana resting familiarly in her lap.

"What about the cabin?" Andrea asked softly as she reclined at the head of the bed, pillows underneath her injured shoulder. She still wasn't up to talking as the effects of T-Dog's death pulled her into a deep chasm.

"A prison is a more secure place. I'd trade a wooden box for a fortress any day." The sword-wielder looked both women in the eye before casting her dice. "I vote we go."

"…So do I."

"I can't." Samara shook her head, the very idea making her skin crawl unpleasantly. "I can't go back to them. Not after everything. Not after leaving us behind."

"This is about survival, Samara." Michonne had already anticipated the marshal's refusal. "It doesn't matter what you feel about them, what's important is that we will have high fences around us. Weapons, food, medicine. If we have to play nice with them to live there, so be it. Grind your teeth and nod friendly on occasion."

The sword-wielder's words echoed like a bad record. Samara had used almost the exact same words a month ago when they discussed the farm as a refuge and now Michonne was turning the tables on her.

—It didn't sit well with her.

"I'd rather run around with walkers on chains eating twigs for another five months than sleep one day under the same roof as them."

"Samara, we're constantly running low on supplies and anything of use in this area has already been depleted." It had been rather hard to find anything of value as of late and it dawned on Michonne that they would either have to broaden their search area or leave. "If we go through another five months like the ones we've just lived through, one of us is not going to make it. Not this time."

"What are you talking about? We held our own."

"And look where that got us. We were chased out of our own home with nothing but some meager rations. Everything we've gathered over several weeks we lost within an hour because we were too few in numbers and malnourished and dying." Michonne then narrowed her eyes on the stubborn Native. She needed to take a step back to understand their situation which wasn't as fine as she believed. "Andrea was sick for almost a month, almost died because of it. We were barely managing, Samara. You remember what we had to go through?"

Yes, she did. She remembered how hard it had been, before and after Andrea got sick.

"But she got better! The three of us made it. After everything we've been through, I know we can survive anything that comes at us."

"We can if we have to, but it wasn't only skill that got us this far. We should have died many times, but we always found that loophole that kept us alive."

"Bullshit!" The marshal spat as she increasingly got riled up. "We saved each other's asses all winter! That's wasn't luck, that was skill! Are you seriously downplaying yourself?" Samara paused and took a deep breath to calm down. Once she opened her eyes, clarity was again present. "The three of us are strong together. We know all our weaknesses and strengths; we know how to balance each other. Why ruin that?"

"Because I'm tired, Samara!" Andrea exploded. The emotional part of her felt so drained that she just wanted this useless discussion to be over. "Five months on the road movin' place to place, scavengin', livin' in a meat locker. That was no life. I'm starved and exhausted and sleep deprived. I don't have another five months in me! Not like that!"

Her chest heaved as all the air left her lungs. Her companions stared at her fixedly—Andrea wasn't exactly prone to outbursts.

The blond looked each woman in the eye austerely. "We always talked about this place, didn't we? A refuge. That idea is what kept us goin'."

"Yeah, but we were talking about the cabin not a prison."

"Cabin, prison, who cares? It's the same thing!"

"No, it's not because they are there!" The marshal threw her hands up in the air. "You remember them, Andrea? Dale and Rick who left you to be chased by a dozen walkers in the night? Carol and Daryl who left me for dead underneath two walkers? Why the hell would we go back to unreliable people like that?"

Andrea deflated, feeling all her muscles sag with mental exhaustion. Even after all this time, Samara still didn't get it. A part of her had known the marshal still held on to old grudges, but she hadn't realized until now how deep it went.

"Samara…It's not like we went lookin' for them either." Andrea needed the Native to stop swimming against the current for once. She had made her peace, so why couldn't Samara? "We all went our separate ways after the farm and we never looked back once. Can you honestly say that you tried findin' them?"

Speechless.

That was how Andrea had left her. Samara felt like the aforementioned rug had been taken right from underneath her feet. She hadn't wanted to hear it—the voice of reason—but now it was shoved in her face like a bad stench.

It was the truth, wasn't it? Samara hadn't even checked the highway in case the others stuck around. She had viciously removed them from her mind so she could move forward, so she could have some measure of control over her life after what happened. There were no 'what if's' or 'maybe's' in her vocabulary, just cold practicality. Atlanta group bailed on her that night so she bailed on them.

Out of sight, out of mind…

Even knowing these sane reasons for dropping her anger, Samara still couldn't. Like a drug habit you didn't have the power to kick on your own. It was annoying and exhausting, but her whole being wouldn't let her.

"Then let's stay there until spring."

Both Michonne and Andrea perked up at the marshal's numb words.

"This way we'll have a chance to gather enough supplies for the road. You heard Maggie, Hershel wants to plant vegetables. We could learn from this and then make our own garden at the cabin. Live off our own food so we won't have to go scavenging."

Michonne's lips upturned slightly in dark amusement. "You want to raid your former group?"

"No, we trade our skills for supplies." Samara rose to her feet no longer haggard, but feeling her old self again. There was steel in her eyes and the women knew that right behind that rigidity was bitter shrewdness.

"And if your sheriff doesn't agree?"

"He will. He owes me and Andrea this. He won't get to refuse."

"But if?" Michonne leaned forward in her seat, listening to the Native's plan with her own set of keen senses.

"If…" Samara looked the two women dead in the eyes with zero empathy. "Then we raid the shit out of them. This is my compromise. Either that," The marshal took a deep breath, faltering only once. "Or we go our separate ways."

Michonne settled back in her seat, her curiosity satisfied. So, it was blackmail, then?

Andrea picked up a pillow and threw it to which Samara deflected it with a hand.

"Don't do that! Don't give us an ultimatum, not after everythin'!"

The marshal wouldn't listen. This was her final decision and she wouldn't change it. It was either they waited at the prison come spring or she walked her own path. It'll be hard to leave the two women, but Samara will do it. She wanted to protect what was left of her sanity and not fall into the same pattern as she had a few months ago, always torn between what needed to be done and the group's feelings and rules. Besides, Samara wasn't worried about their safety; both women had each other to watch out. She could leave them knowing they would be alright.

"What's your answer?"

Michonne nodded without hesitation. While she knew Samara was serious about leaving, the sword-wielder wasn't about to leave her. The three of them had to stick together no matter what, and not even the prospect of a warm bed could steer the woman's loyalty from a friend. If it came to that then Michonne would walk right beside the marshal out through the prison's gates.

Dark eyes settled over the blond. But Andrea?

The woman in questioned sighed as her head fell in both her hands. How was she supposed to make this work? Andrea hadn't been joking when she said she couldn't go through another few months like the ones before. She didn't feel capable anymore. She desperately wanted a break from all the worrying and constant stress the shortage of supplies gave her. She wanted just once to sleep without one eye open and now that an opportunity was given to her on a silver platter, Samara tried to take it away because of some old resentment.

She didn't want to part ways with her. As harsh as Samara was, she was still a dear friend and someone who had risked her life to save hers. Andrea couldn't just let her go, not while knowing what could happen to her out there. Her heart wouldn't let her.

But there was still time until spring, time to change Samara's mind and break that chain of bitterness she hid deep inside.

 

Chapter Text

Samara descended the steps one at a time, her backpack slung over her shoulder. She didn't feel ready to leave considering where their destination was, but she couldn't stall. Nightfall was closing in fast and the men had finished loading everything useful.

In the hall, Michonne was holding on to both hers and Andrea's bags as the blond helped Maggie to her feet.

"Did you guys write that?" For the better part of the hours, Maggie had done nothing but stare at the words on the wall, written in both hers and Beth's lipstick. The combination of chipped wallpaper and crusted over wax made her feel like she was in a haunted house.

"I did after that night." Samara said as she readjusted her cowboy hat.

The message had been intended for them…If they ever decided to come back.

The women left the house and met up with Glenn and Tyreese as they finished up arranging the tools in the truck's bed.

"Everything's ready. Let's go." Glenn called out as he checked his watch again. It was near sunset and they had to leave.

Samara was with Michonne placing their bags in the trunk of their Chevrolet. As the marshal closed the trunk she eyed the dark woman in question—are we really doing this?

Michonne smirked for a second before patting the Native on the back. Yes, we are.

With a groan, Samara followed her companion. As they neared, she could hear Andrea's sympathetic words.

"We buried Patricia, Jimmy and Shane next to the others. If you wanna say goodbye before we leave..."

Samara almost forgot about them. Only a few days ago, they had managed to dig through the soil for three graves. Just in time as the rise in temperature was starting to decompose what was left of the cadavers.

Maggie detached from the blond and tried to dash over to the graves on her own. She would skip there on one leg if she had to—that was her sister buried there. Glenn stopped Maggie in time before she worsened her injury and helped her reach her destination.

Leaning against the Ford, Samara rummaged through her pockets and pulled out the orange container. All this excitement had gotten her back all worked up and from the corner of her eye she could see Tyreese watching her as she chewed on a pill. She paid it no mind.

"I'll be glad to get rid of this place." Andrea rubbed her sore shoulder as she gazed at the farmhouse. Even after all these months, the sight of it so deserted made her skin crawl. "I swear I've had some of the most terrifyin' nightmares since comin' here."

Samara snorted dryly. You're not the only one.

Olive eyes stared forlornly at the two lovers kneeling by Patricia's grave. Glenn had his arm around the girl as she wiped the tears off her cheeks. Samara had thought that what Glenn and Maggie had back a few months ago had been just a spur of the moment, but it seemed it transcended into actual love.

She was happy for them. Really.

There was enough darkness in this world. A tiny flame in the shadows might be just what they needed to keep themselves motivated to go forward. Love had that effect.

Too bad that it could be taken so easily in these times. Just one scratch and it was over. And then pain. Immeasurable pain that tore apart the very foundation of your soul. That was the risk, and the two lovers had decided to take that chance. She wished them all the luck in the world even though she was skeptical it would last.

Soon after, they left the farm. The Chevrolet followed the truck at a short distance as they drove in the way of the dirt road. Looking in the rear-view mirror, Samara bid her last farewell to the house, to Alistair and everyone that had lost their lives there.

Michonne was behind the wheel as Samara sat beside her and Andrea in the back. There was a strange tension clogging up the air, at least for the two former group women. In about an hour they were going to be reunited with the rest of their former companions.

—Samara felt like throwing up.

Her nerves were a mess and Andrea wasn't in any state better, but her attempts at hiding them were making it even more obvious.

Gods…Samara massaged the middle of her chest. She didn't know if she was on the verge of a panic attack or if she was going to have a stroke. Probably both.

"You ain't feelin' too hot either, are you?" Lime green connected with pale blue in the rear-view mirror. Even with the small smile, Andrea just couldn't mask the faint jitter to her words.

Samara didn't answer as she wondered in a small fit of insanity what would happen if she took control of the steering wheel. Her eyes slid to the woman behind it and knew that Michonne would most likely punch her in the face if she tried.

Half an hour into their drive and the sky bled steadily into orange. The shade of red will soon grow dark enough for stars to finally come out and shine like glitter over a vast obsidian canvas.

Over the horizon, the town they had raided this morning appeared. Passing through it, she could see the supermarket ahead and—

The marshal's mouth opened in awe as the ice box was in the same exact place Michonne had left it. There was no sign of the two people they had robbed, just the box.

No fucking way they left it behind…

As Samara followed the scene with her eyes, she turned in her seat until she lost it completely. Her gaze landed on Andrea who also had seen the box. There was something indiscernible staring back at the marshal.

Twitch.

"Not a fucking word…" Samara hid herself behind her sunglasses. She didn't need or want the 'I-told-you-so'.

Apprehensively, she tried to understand what happened to the two strangers. Had they been run off by walkers or did they actually leave the box behind, opting to save their souls from themselves? If it had been the latter, which was increasingly apparent, then that meant that Andrea had been right. Those people had just been desperate and Samara had been seconds away from shooting them. While that didn't necessarily horrify her, the fact that she had been wrong was more maddening.

Samara knew why she had never considered Andrea's option—

She hadn't cared. If they were good, if they were bad, it didn't matter. Before reuniting with the sheriff at Wiltshire, when she had shot that kid accidentally, she had felt bad, guilty for killing a scared teenager, but now…she wasn't so sure anymore. There were times when even her own actions worried her, at how far she was willing to go.

—The spiral down the rabbit hole was getting deeper.


 

Rick ran with his gun in hand.

He had been sitting atop one of the outdoor tables, enjoying the last of the sun's rays when Sasha shouted from the guard tower that a Ford's headlights appeared on the road. Initially, Rick had been relieved that the others made it back in time, but when Sasha yelled again, it changed.

—There was another car following the truck.

The woman's loud announcement had everyone in the vicinity on alert. Daryl gathered the arrows he had been making on one of the other tables, Carl dropped the basket ball and ran after his dad, Dale picked up his rifle and followed, and Lori and Carol stood behind the fenced walls with Beth and Hershel, all armed and ready.

Axel and Oscar, who had been walking the fences to finish off the walkers, opened the gates for the cars to enter. They tried peering through the window of the second car, but it sped past too quickly for either of them to catch a glimpse of the passengers.

Rick held up his hand for the Ford to stop before reaching the inner courtyard. He didn't know who was in the second car and he wasn't going to allow them inside without knowing first. Daryl and Carl took point as their crossbow and gun were pointed at the Chevrolet.

Rick let a heavy breath out. Dammit, he sent Glenn after farming tools and he came back with other people!

The passenger and driver doors opened and Glenn and Tyreese stepped out. Having left the tower, Sasha rushed over to her brother and tried to hug him only for the man to stop her. His chest still hurt like hell.

Glenn opened the back door and the sheriff tensed as the Korean helped an injured Maggie out of the car. Her thigh was bandaged and there was a patch of crimson bleeding into it.

"Glenn, what the hell happened?" Cold eyes landed on the Chevrolet with apprehension. "Who's in the other car?"

"Maggie!" The blond haired teenager ran once she saw the blood, her father on her heels as fast as his one leg would allow. Reaching her sister, Beth looked over her with her heart in her throat. "Maggie, are you alright? Please, tell me you weren't bit."

"No, I'm fine." The older Greene sister comforted the younger with a reassuring smile. "I got shot, but it was an accident."

"Accident?!"

The brilliant smile that lightened up Glenn's face had the sheriff pause in incredulity.

"You won't believe what we found." He pointed behind them. "Look!"


 

Samara felt her stomach constrict painfully as Glenn pointed at them.

The moment she had seen the prison she knew it was show time and there was nothing more she hated than being in the spotlight.

Samara gazed at the dozen or so people as her fingers clenched over her knees.

Oh Gods.

There they are. The Atlanta group.

The Native lowered herself in her seat, making herself as small as possible.

She could see him. The Kentucky sheriff. He was striding towards them with purpose, his gun in his hand. Beside him was the hunter, his trusty crossbow up and aimed, and the Grimes boy…or maybe boy no longer as he marched unwavering after his father with a silenced gun in hand and sheriff hat resting firmly on his head.

"Well?" Michonne's fingers tapped against the steering wheel as she gave the marshal a questioning look. "Are we staying or are we going?"

Opening the car door, Michonne took the initiative.

A heavy sigh from behind caught the marshal's attention. Both women stared at each other in resignation.

This is it. No backing out now.

Opening the door, Andrea got out. Placing her hat back over her head, Samara followed. With slow strides, she reached Michonne's side that was leaning against the hood of their car.

The headlights provided the marshal with enough visual of what happened next.


 

Rick froze mid step, the caution and tension dissipating as he spotted familiar wavy blond hair the color of straw. The woman stepped closer and he could see a maroon fur jacket, baggy dark cargo pants, winter boots and a rifle slung over her shoulder. As she distanced herself from the headlights and reached him, he silently gasped.

He couldn't even think—

"Andrea…"

It hadn't been Rick that uttered her name but the man standing next to him. Dale rushed past him, towards the woman he had cared for like a daughter. A daughter that had returned to him, alive and safe. Andrea didn't reject the old man, but embraced him fully. Dale was practically crying as he held onto the blond like a life-saving crutch, a whisper of 'You're alive' being repeated like a looping vinyl.

Rick rested his hands on his hips as he tried to make sense of this. Andrea was alive. Where had she been all this time?

The others had finally reached them and it had been instantaneous. They gasped in shock, astonishment and awe. A ghost had decided to visit them or maybe torment them with their past decisions.

Dale grudgingly detached from Andrea as Lori and Carol came up to the woman, each wanting to embrace her. The older man wiped the tears away as he couldn't keep his eyes off the blond. He thought she had been lost to him forever.

Rick stepped forward, a warm smile on his lips. Now that he had a better view of her he could see the scar that traveled from the corner of her lips to her ear.

"My Lord, what happened to your face?" Lori asked horrified as she tried to touch the ugly scar only to have Andrea recoil.

"It's a long story."


 

Daryl actually cracked a smile as he lowered his crossbow. Not in thousand years had he ever thought that he would see Andrea again. It was nothing short of a miracle.

But there was still one problem. Or two.

Blue eyes moved to the strangers reclining against the hood of the car. He couldn't see them clearly since the sun had completely sunk, leaving barely any natural light and the car's headlights messed further with his vision. Stepping closer, he passed the sheriff who was now firmly embracing Andrea and realized that the two strangers were women.

He could see one of them was a black woman in her mid thirties with dreadlocks and a bandanna over her forehead. She was dressed in a man's dark leather bomber jacket with beige fur trimming, dark grey jeans with faded white splatters and hiking boots. There was a handle of a sword sticking out from her back and a knife holster could be seen underneath her jacket. Now, the other one…her face was hidden by a tipped over cowboy hat.

The hunter's interest peaked as he observed the woman's getup—combat boots, dark pants, leather gloves and…a real goddamn Confederate greatcoat of arms.

His gaze traveled from the 'Unionist' to the black woman and back. Now there was an image he never thought he would see in his life—southern grey and ebony skin sitting side by side.

But as he got closer, a foreboding feeling began churning in the pit of his stomach. Something about the Confederate was skewed, like one of those 3D pictures you had to go cross-eyed to see the real image hidden within.

The unnamed sword-wielder was now watching his approach hawkishly. Maybe it was because of the growing darkness, but he couldn't read her. There was nothing in her composure or in her stare that gave him an insight into her thoughts, just a static screen. She was smart not to leave her guard down even if her blond companion knew his people.

Daryl halted just a meter away from them, his eyes reverting back to the grey coat. The woman still hadn't raised the hat, but something blue caught his attention. Her coat's neckline was parted reveling turquoise beads hanging around her tan throat. They hung low as they disappeared underneath her coat, but he did catch a glimpse of ivory.

—A fang.

Not any kind, but bear.

That churning feeling just turned to a searing boil.

Blue beaded necklace with bear fangs…He had seen that necklace a thousand times before. In the Indian's pictures, but the necklace had been worn by the marshal's father not—

No.

She had had one also. The same one. Every day she had worn it at the farm and Daryl had never once seen her without it.

A veil seemed to lift from the pressure on his brain. The buzzing in his ears stopped altogether and Daryl's heartbeat pounded like a war drum in his chest. Slow, agonizingly slow, his eyes dragged themselves upwards and—

Cold eyes stared at him from underneath the rim of the hat.

He knew those eyes. Eyes the color of olives encircled by a deep emerald ring and if you looked closely you could see dark golden flakes scattered in them.

"Shit!"

Daryl took a step back in wild panic. Stories of specters, doomed to walk this plane, assaulted him. Spirits that couldn't rest until they were avenged, and now, the Indian's came back for her due.

Taking a hold of himself, Daryl held his ground. He might believe in some mystical things, but what was staring at him was not a ghost but a human.

It then dawned on him.

—Samara.

No, it couldn't be. He had seen her go down with two walkers. He saw her die.

Didn't I?


 

The hunter's outburst caught the sheriff's attention.

Daryl was backing away in actual fear from the two women by the second car. That captured his full attention as Daryl never showed panic, not even in the dreariest of moments. Frowning, her left his group and walked towards the two foreign women. As he got closer, he could see a sword and…shoulder holsters. The position of the guns brought a pang of familiarity. He'd only known one person in this new world keep their weapons in that same exact position.

That nagging feeling at the back of his mind grew tenth fold as he shortened the distance. The woman closest to him, the one in the greatcoat, looked towards him and it took all of Rick's self-control not to have a heart-attack.

No way…It can't be…

—The US Deputy Marshal of West Virginia.

"Samara."

Rick's loud whisper had the same effect as dropping a bomb. A dead silence descended on the group. Everyone watched as the living dead took the necessary steps until she stood just a few feet from their stunned leader. Samara looked him up and down with the same coldness she had greeted Daryl.

"Long time no see, sheriff."

Time seemed to slow as every member of the Atlanta group seemed frozen in doubt.

"What's with those faces?" Samara smirked humorlessly. "You all look like you've seen a ghost."

Rick shook his head slowly in disbelief, his clammy hands shaking lightly.

"You died…"

The marshal's sneer deepened. "I don't die so easily."

One beat.

Two.

With long strides, Rick walked up to the marshal and embraced her so powerfully that her hat fell. Despite her initial surprise, Samara quickly recovered and went along with the sheriff's bear hug.

Her eyes slid over to Michonne who was watching them astutely. Grind your teeth and smile on occasion, huh? With reluctance, she wrapped her hands around him and Samara could have sworn she felt the sheriff's muscles slack.

"I thought you were dead." He whispered into her hair.

Almost.

Her fingers sunk into his jacket as, for just a split moment, her heart fluttered. She hadn't seen Rick in almost half a year and Samara lost control of her traitorous emotions. An old part of her felt so damned relieved to see him again. A bit shaggy, but she didn't exactly look too rosy either.

But the feeling passed and Samara disentangled from him.

Rick didn't feel like letting go just yet as his hand remained on her shoulder, squeezing it so Samara wouldn't disappear like a mirage. His smile was soft and awed as he scrutinized every inch of her face. The shadows underneath her eyes had a purple hue to them now and she seemed to sport some new scars—one over the bridge of her nose and a cut across her left eyebrow.

"Goddamn…" His fingers moved from her shoulder to her throat, cupping it with his thumb on her pulse. It didn't escape his notice the tiny quiver to her blood. "You have no idea how good it is to see you."

Samara slowly stepped out of his arm's range and let his coarse fingers slip from her throat. That had been too personal for her tastes and Rick seemed to snap out of whatever reverie he had been in. He cleared his throat and stepped back from her with his hands on his hips, his eye never changing from their burning joy.

Dale was the only other to embrace the marshal as the others all had reasons not to engage the woman. Carol stood behind as she felt her throat clog with dread. She just couldn't join in the merriment even if she was glad Samara was alive. Lori didn't even think to join since she had never exactly gotten along or liked the Native, and her husband's warm welcome just made her feel out of place. As for her son…Carl looked at Samara in apathy. There was nothing—no smile, no joy, just a stone wall. It was like Carl was looking at a stranger, someone that he held no sentiment for. Hershel and Beth both felt relieved as they saw the woman, but decided to let her have her space as the remembered her as being a rather distant woman.

And Daryl…he felt the same thing Carol did. Guilt and dread all mixed up into an ugly ball that clawed at his insides.

Rick's eyes moved to the sword-wielder who was approaching them at a leisure pace. He had actually forgotten about her as his focus had been on the two women.

The Native cleared her throat once her companion stood beside her. "Michonne, this is the Kentucky sheriff, Rick Grimes. Sheriff, meet Michonne."

Michonne nodded in greeting as she analyzed him piercingly. So, this was the man Samara talked about.

The marshal's eyes fleeted over the towering building. Even at the end of civilization, prisons still gave her a depressing feeling. Old buildings over-packed with too many bad men sent off livid, deathlike vibes that made your skin crawl.

"Nice place you got here." She already hated it and she hadn't even stepped foot inside it yet. "Do we get a tour?"


 

"Where have you been all this time?"

"Here and there."

The three women had been taken to the mess hall and gathered around the tables. They sat alone while the others were scattered around with Daryl at the farthest. Hershel was with his daughter, checking up on her leg while a young woman—presumably Tyreese's sister that Samara couldn't, for the life of her, remember her name—was bandaging his chest. The old farmer had informed Tyreese that he sported a fractured rib and that he was lucky it hadn't broken.

"We walked the countryside until we eventually settled south in a small town called Geneva from November to early January. We had to leave the town so we decided to go back to the farm where we've been living until Glenn and Maggie came around."

That had been the short answer. The longer would have garnered too many questions that Samara didn't feel apt to answer.

"Why did you leave?" Rick asked as he sat on the table opposite the women's, right in front of the marshal with his son next to him.

"We were ran out by walkers." Samara answered before any of her companions could.

Michonne and Andrea gave each other a fleeting look, both questioning why Samara was holding back.

"What about you?" Andrea placed her elbows on the table, rubbing her frozen hands. "Glenn said you've only been here since December."

"Like you, we drove from place to place. Never stoppin' too long." Rick said as his eyes wandered over the room. "Finally, we found the prison and decided to take the chance. It was worth it in the end."

Samara listened with only one ear, opting to scrutinize the others instead. Nothing had much changed in their appearance except for the bags underneath their eyes and the longer hair, but what really caught her attention were the four people she didn't know. The man Tyreese, his sister and the two convicts who were surprisingly still in their prison uniforms—a tall, black man in his early thirties and a short white man in his late forties that reminded Samara of a very skinny redneck-biker. She would watch those two until she devised her own opinion. Samara had never trusted convicts and she wasn't about to start now, no matter if they had the group's trust.

"I'm sorry, this has been eatin' me up since I saw it." Andrea's voice brought Samara out of her thoughts. "Hershel, what the hell happened to your leg?"

Samara's gaze unconsciously slid over to the Greene patriarch's missing limb. Had he been is some accident or some infection gone astray?

"I got bit while we were cleanin' this place up." Hershel looked at the emptiness where his leg used to be. "Rick saved me. Cut off my leg before the virus could spread."

That peaked Michonne's curiosity. "You can do that?"

"Apparently. Cut off the infected limb fast enough and you have a chance at survivin'. That is if you survive blood loss first."

That was good to know. If Samara ever got bit on the finger, she could just hack it off real quick and still live to tell the tale.

"How did you survive?" Carl asked as he looked from Samara to Andrea. It didn't escape the marshal's notice how grim he was, different from the shy little boy that could barely look her in the eye.

"That night, I ran into the forest." The memory of that night still haunted Andrea even in her waking hours. "Kept runnin' until day broke. I was so tired that I fell and I thought that was it. Walkers were almost upon me and I couldn't see a way out." Pale blue eyes then moved to the woman next to her, a grateful shine to them. "But then Michonne appeared out of nowhere and saved me. We caught up to Samara three weeks later and we've been together since."

Everyone then looked at the marshal. They were most interested in how she had lived through that night. From what Carol and Daryl had told them, even to the tiniest detail, there was no way she could have survived. But here she was, living and breathing.

Feeling their burning stares, Samara sighed before retelling her part of the story. "I wasn't so lucky to get away. I stayed right in the same place you last saw me." Olive eyes burned Daryl and Carol in their intensity. "Those two walkers, I shot them before they could bite me. Stayed underneath them until the horde passed next sunset."

At least she didn't flinch while retelling the story. The urge to pop a pill was strong, but she abstained. The view in front of her was much more entertaining. Everyone's faces fell into horror at the knowledge that Samara had spent almost an entire day trapped on the farm with just two bodies protecting her from a hundred or so walkers.

Yes, feel guilty. Feel like shit.

"Jesus…" Dale exclaimed in shock, his bushy brows almost meeting in the center.

Rick also stared at Samara in dismay, but she chose to ignore it. Her eyes were on a different person altogether, but the man wouldn't meet her gaze. Daryl's head was turned as he harshly bit on his thumb, avoiding her and his own guilt.

"Samara, I-I'm sorry."

If it hadn't been for Michonne's sudden stern grip on her knee, Samara would have exploded. With a self-control that even she was impressed at, the marshal listened to Carol's apologies with an open ear.

"I didn't see the walkers." The woman held onto the base of her throat, her other arm wrapped around her midsection. A defensive posture. "I couldn't concentrate on nothin' but gettin' to Daryl and when I did see those walkers catch up to you—"

"You panicked." Samara's voice was calm, too calm to her two companion's knowledge of the Native's rather aggressive nature. "Could've happened to anyone. The only thing that matters is that we're alive."

Pause.

"Well, not T-Dog." Samara's calm eyes landed on Carol. "He didn't."

And there it was. The viciousness.

Samara heard Andrea mutter a disbelieving 'Oh my god' from behind her fist, but she didn't care. The satisfaction at seeing the older woman flinch in anguish overlooked the fact she used a dead man—no matter how she felt about him—in her petty revenge.

Some hadn't realized that Samara's statement had been meant maliciously, but those that have known her longer weren't happy. Lori looked aghast and while her husband didn't outright show anything, Samara could sense the chaos within him expressed only in a thinning of his lips. Daryl had stopped chewing on his thumb and narrowed his eyes irately on the Native while Glenn and Dale were left shaken.

Andrea gave Samara a furious scowl, but the marshal paid her no mind. She didn't honestly expect her to not snap at them at least once.

"Glenn told us about T-Dog. I'm sorry it happened." Andrea decided that the marshal wasn't worth it right now; she'll scold her later when they were alone. "He was a good man."

"He was." Rick said as she shook off the memory of when he found the man half-eaten by walkers. He had lost others along the way, but never in such a gruesome fashion. T-Dog had been a trusted friend and he was missed every day.

A moment of silence was given to the man's memory.

"That night...Did you all make it to the highway?"

"Yeah." Lori answered Andrea's question as her glare was still on the Native. "We waited for you. Dale told us you ran, but he wasn't sure if you made it. We tried to stay as long as we could at the car jam, but walkers showed up. We had no choice but to leave. I'm sorry, but we couldn't wait."

"Yeah, I figured as much." As lame as the explanation was, Andrea understood it. She would have done the same if she had been in their shoes.

The marshal suddenly got up from the table. "As nice as this reunion is, where can I find the showers? I haven't bathed in quite some time and as you probably already sensed, I stink."

Samara had been sociable enough for one day and she wanted to use the facility's full services.

"I'll show you." Rick rose to his feet. "Then I'll take you to your cells so you can get settled in."

"You sleep in the cells?" While it didn't exactly appeal to Andrea, she wasn't going to be picky.

"Only place that got beds."

Samara snorted lightly. She, a US Marshal living in a prison cell — either that was pure irony or Samara had that one coming for some time.


 

"Oh Gods..." Samara moaned as the first droplets of water hit her naked body. "Hot water."

The three women were enjoying their long awaited bath as they stood in the shower room, listening to the pitter of water on tiles. The warm steam embraced them like a forgotten lover, something they hadn't experienced in quite some time.

"The only thing missin' is a bathtub so I can sleep in it." Andrea smiled she combed her fingers through her hair, feeling the grime wash off. "Bubbles, candles, relaxing music and a bottle of rose wine. Oh, I really want that."

The amusement slowly slipped off the blond's face as she pondered on the last hour. Meeting everyone again has had a strange effect on her. "All those faces…seem like a lifetime since I've last saw them. I even forgot what Beth's face looked like. It took me a few seconds to realize who she was."

"I know what you mean." Samara spread the soap's foam over her arms. "I barely recognized Carl. He grew up."

No longer was he the shy little boy hanging by his mother's apron, now he was battle-hardened and, consequentially, worn-out because of the times they lived in.

Welcome to the world of adults, Carl. The one you wanted so much.

"Do you really hate them?" Blue eyes searched her with quiet intensity.

Samara sighed as she ducked underneath the soothing spray of water.

"I hate what they did, not who they are."

She had really thought that she did. All this time, she couldn't have thought of them without feeling a burning hatred, but it had been directed at that one single choice, not at the whole of the group. Samara always chose to overlook that one detail, but now…she couldn't keep up the lie anymore. Seeing them in the flesh drove out the images of devils and replaced them with simple humans that made mistakes.

—The actions of a few did not make the whole.

Samara paused as she thought better.

"Well, maybe I hate Carol." That woman had been the whole reason the marshal had ended up in such a gory mess. "I could have spent the entire of my life not knowing what it's like living under two walkers."

Andrea said nothing to that. From what she gathered out of Samara words, the woman endangered them both when she refused to run into the forest, instead opting to return where the walkers were. But this had been Samara's side of the story. The blond would need to hear Carol's version before she could side with anyone or none at all.

"I'm going to talk to Grimes tonight." Samara announced as she scrubbed her hair furiously, mindful of the taped bandage on her ear. "I need to tell him about the metal-hand guy and his group. If they ever find this place, he needs to know what he's up against."

Michonne agreed fullheartedly. If those people ever came here, they would be outgunned and, probably, outnumbered.

"Are you gonna tell him about our temporary stay?"

Samara nodded.

"We did good comin' here, Samara." Andrea closed her eyes as she turned the knob for just a little more heat. It was harder for her to wash as her shoulder was still sore and she had to avoid wetting the inflamed area. "This place is better than any we've ever stayed at."

Samara grunted, not offering an answer.

"Hey, Mich." Andrea called out to the woman that had been overtly silent. "What do you think of the group?"

The sword-wielder shrugged. Nothing jumped to her interest, except—"I think the sheriff was very happy to see you."

The woman in question froze before narrowing her eyes on the accuser. With excellent precision, Samara launched her small bar of soap at Michonne, hitting her right in the chest. The look she received made Samara happy that her dreadlock sporting companion didn't have her katana anywhere near.

"Now that you mention it…" Andrea gave the marshal a sly sidelong glance. "What was that? He didn't hug me that eagerly."

Samara groaned in annoyance. "Not you too."

"All those times I saw just the two of you talk." The blond had to bite her lip to keep herself from grinning. "Hell, you even went in the forest alone one time. Whenever somethin' happened, you were the one he used to run to. Charmin' to watch, ain't it, Michonne?"

"Almost like a soap opera."

Samara bit her tongue from barking back while the tip of her ears burned. "You two are enjoying this way too much."

"I mean really, Samara." The blond continued without any shame. Watching the marshal squirm was a most entertaining sight. "He's got a kid on the way—"

"Never proven it was his." The Native muttered grouchily under her breath.

"—And you're just waltzin' in here makin' him drape himself all over you." She ended with a mock reprimanding tsk.

"Must be that disarming charm of hers." Michonne threw in her two cents, a small quirk on her chapped lips. "Smells like love to me."

Samara snapped.

"Fuck off, the both of you!" She pointed at both women with an irritable scowl. They were ganging up on her unfairly. "How about we all enjoy this shower in silence? Stick to your side and I'll stick to mine. Quietly."

Michonne and Andrea chuckled as they watched Samara turn her back on them with an angry huff. The marshal had it coming. She shouldn't have brought up T-Dog in that manner.

Andrea didn't think for one second that there was anything more to the two lawmen that friendship, or at least a past one. Samara was too destructive and emotionally stunted to feel anything intimate for anyone. Love and happiness had become a foreign language and Andrea wasn't sure if she would ever recover from it.


 

Blue eyes watched as the three women were lead by Grimes to their respective cells. They had chosen the ones at the other end of the block, farthest away from the others.

His habit seemed to be in full force today as he couldn't stop chewing on his thumb. He had already broken the skin on the other and now was a few layers away from bloodying this one. He couldn't help himself. The moment he saw the Indian he knew a card had just been drawn from the makeshift house, toppling over his carefully constructed inner balance.

—The marshal was alive and he had left her behind.

It hadn't been intentional. He had seen her go down and thought that that was the end of her story. At that time, he had Carol with him so his thoughts revolved around at least saving one of them.

There was nothing he could have done. He had been backed up into a corner with only one way out. One that hadn't included the marshal and it had eaten at him for days.

Olive eyes noticed his vigil.

The muscles at the corner of his mouth twitched. Samara scrutinized him with little to no emotion, but there was something judging from that intensity. He knew some part of her blamed him for her misfortune. To remain on the farm with just two walkers covering your scent…he knew how that felt. Daryl himself had used the same method to escape the horde back at the highway and he could still vividly remember the paralyzing fear. Being unable to move as the walkers slowly shuffled past his prone body, praying to God that they wouldn't notice him. It had been one of the most frightening experiences of his life and he could only imagine what spending hours in that uncertain and horrifying state must have done to her psychologically.

If he had known the Indian was alive, he would have tried to get to her even if it meant sacrificing his chance of leaving the farm. He wouldn't have left her like that. She had been one of them and they didn't leave people behind, but it happened and Daryl knew that Samara would eventually confront him on that. It was just in her nature. He was actually surprised at how mild she had been acting up until now. The Samara he remembered would have rebuked them on sight, spitefully and antagonistically, but this one kept her facade.

Samara lowered her eyes as she disappeared underneath the upper passage.

What now? Samara and Andrea and this new woman would join them in their survival, but even he knew it wouldn't be like before. Just from looking at Samara's mannerism he knew she and the group were back at square one, maybe even worse. And Andrea…while she seemed pleased to see them, she kept her distance.

Daryl sighed as he turned away from the balustrade and pushed aside the curtain he had hung up at the entrance of his cell. Sitting on his bed, he lifted the mattress on the upper corner where his pillow was and pulled two photos from underneath.

Hunched over himself, Daryl wondered over the fate of these pictures.

He had carried them for so long that keeping them with him was no longer necessary. Their owner was just a few cells away and would most likely be glad to have them back, but how could he explain the burn marks or the creasing? Or why he, of all people, held on to them after she presumably died?

Even Daryl didn't have an explanation.

Maybe he could just leave them in her cell anonymously. Daryl scoffed at the ridiculousness of it. Was he that scared of her reaction that he would resort to sneaking around? A part of him said yes as he knew the marshal would not resist in not knowing who the benefactor had been and if Samara was as good of a marshal as she thought she was, she would close in on him in no time. From there, many questions would be asked that he had no patience to answer.

Daryl leaned back until his spine hit the cold concrete wall. He tried to rub the pressure out of his eyes, but his mind refused to give him repose.

What the hell am I gonna do with these photos?


 

It was midnight when Rick started his shift at the guard tower.

He was relieved to have the alone time to think. When he woke up this morning he hadn't expected anything out of the ordinary, just a typical bland day. How wrong he had been.

Samara was back. He still couldn't believe those words no matter how many times he uttered them. After so many months, for her to just appear out of nowhere had been a tremendous shock. Rick had mourned her and moved on, all in vain as everything had crashed down over his head in the span of a few seconds.

It was such a strange situation.

The door to the small room squeaked open and just the person he had been thinking of walked in. Rick rose to his feet as Samara looked over the cabin in curiosity. There was nothing sans two chairs and a wide panel with defunct monitors. It didn't take long until her attention shifted to him.

"We need to talk."

From her tone, the sheriff could sense something was amiss. "What's wrong?"

Samara walked over to the panel and leaned against it as Grimes sat back in his chair.

"I lied." She crossed her arms over her chest. "We didn't leave the town because of walkers. Granted, we would have ultimately, but that wasn't what drove us out."

"Who?"

"I don't know who they are, but I can tell you they're smart and they're dangerous. As in shoot you unarmed dangerous. They—"

"Wait." Rick held his hand up. "Start from the beginnin'."

Samara took a deep breath as she recounted her past experience with them.

"Andrea got sick with pneumonia deep into December, so Michonne and I had to often make runs to find medicine. One day we were trekking through the forest. It was the fastest way to get to a town so we didn't even think on it. As we neared a clearing, we came upon a military convoy." That had scared the hell out of them as they immediately flattened to the icy ground. "The soldiers looked like they were waiting for something. Soon, a car arrived and a man stepped out with a white flag. This guy told the soldiers that he had found their missing man, that he had gotten injured in some car accident. He wanted to take the soldiers to him. Stupidly, they lowered their guard and that was when the shooting began. People jumped out of the woods and shot all those soldiers down. At that point, both Michonne and I left. We didn't want to be spotted and share their fate."

Samara's eyes glinted ominously. "These people are the same ones that drove us out. There was this guy with a metal hand—"

Rick's brows shot up in surprise. "A metal hand?"

"Yeah, a crudely made prosthetic with a knife at the end. This metal-hand redneck was at that clearing. That's why the second time we saw him, we didn't even say a word no matter how much he tried to start a conversation. We just started shooting." The man hadn't even gotten past his first word when Samara pulled the trigger. The two women knew what kind of people they were dealing with and opted to use violence instead of words. "He was with three others; Michonne killed two of them and we ran. Metal-hand guy survived and brought a group at our hideaway. A fight started, but we managed to skip town with just a few injuries."

The sheriff leaned back in his chair as his fingers sunk into the leather padding on the armrests. From what Samara was saying, if these people ever found them it would end badly.

"This guy, is he alive?"

"I…I don't think so." The marshal's frowned in uncertainty as she scratched at the bandage on her ear. "Doesn't matter if he lived or not, the problem is his group. They're armed to the teeth with enough guns to supply a small army thanks to that convoy raid. And trust me, they have an army."

Rising to his feet, Rick paced the small cabin. "You have any idea where they could be?"

Samara shook her head. "First time we saw them was near Route 27 and the second time was in a town called Sunset Village. It could be anywhere between those two or in a 50km radius of them. I don't know and I wasn't about to waltz around and find them."

"Could they find this place?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. Look, I just wanted to tell you what we had to deal with. We were lucky that they underestimated us, otherwise we would have been royally fucked."

Rick stopped next to the panel and rested his hands on it with a sudden weariness. He could feel a headache forming right in the middle of his temple and knew it was going to be one of those troubling ones.

"And you said nothin' last night so there wouldn't be panic." His knowing eyes slid to hers.

"This is just a precaution, not an upcoming danger…I hope."

Rick understood and he was grateful. After so many months, this place had been the first real spark of happiness they had. They had found a home and worrying the others about a potential threat was not something he was about to do. He was the leader here, it was his responsibility. The others deserved rest.

"Thank you for tellin' me this."

"Sure." The corner of her lips quirked up for a second. "We have to work together now, don't we?"

Pause.

"I'm surprised to hear you say that." Considering that months ago Samara had been rather adamant in not helping anyone other than herself.

"Well Grimes, I'm not the same person I was back then. There's something you need to understand." The marshal uncrossed her arms and took a step closer to the sheriff. "I came here not because I wanted to, but because Andrea and Michonne did. Fact is, I could have gone my entire life not seeing either of you again."

"I see this ain't no warm reunion."

"Did you really think it would be?" She scoffed. "You know I stick to grudges. That is one thing that'll never change, but I'll tolerate you. We need a safe enough place until the cold passes and a prison is just that place."

"You ain't stayin'." The headache just turned to a drum roll.

"No, this is just temporary until we pull ourselves together. A few weeks are enough for us to rest and resupply."

"Where will you go?"

"That's for us to know." Her brows narrowed. "Are you alright with that?"

"Does it matter what I think?"

"No." That was her pointed answer. "Andrea and Michonne are my only concern. Grimes, I'm going to tell you something that you once told me—If you put them in danger with your choices, I won't be kind."

Rick felt himself bristle with anger. "You're not the only one who's changed, Samara, and threatenin' me ain't a smart thing on your part."

"I'm not threatening you, I'm just saying what will happen if you step over a certain line." The marshal will not allow Rick to endanger them with his compassion. "I'll work with you, I'll protect this place and your people and we'll pull our own weight around. In return, you will do the same with mine. No more and no less."

Behind the sternness, behind the animosity and bitterness, Rick could see the genuine affection for the two women. It hit him like an epiphany—

"You really care about them."

That was genuinely more surprising than seeing her alive. The marshal hadn't cared about anyone in the long run. Maybe himself, but eventually the woman had severed ties with him as well.

"I've lived with these two women for five months, Grimes. We protected each other, we kept each other sane and we kept each other alive over the course of a harsh winter." There was a fire in those green irises, one that he hadn't seen before. "I would die for them."

Rick felt like he was talking to a stranger. This wasn't the Samara he knew. That woman had been a loner, preferring the company of a four-legged animal to an actual human being and that was only half the time. The majority she spent on her own, doing what she wanted without repercussions. Whatever impression Andrea and this new women made on her, they had managed to do something that Rick had only fantasized.

"When you leave, I'll give you some supplies and ammo." This was the least he could do.

"Thank you."

Samara looked into the window beyond the guard tower. She wondered how he could spot anything in such a thick darkness. She wondered…

"Where did you bury him? T-Dog?"

"Over there." He pointed somewhere in the overgrown grass segment of the prison. "You can't miss it in daylight."

As the subject of T-Dog was brought up, the sheriff gave the marshal a reprimanding glower. "That was a petty thing you did."

The marshal averted her gaze. "I know and I'm sorry I had to use the man's memory like that, but that woman deserved it." She deserved a lot worse.

"It wasn't Carol's fault that T-Dog got bit." The man defended the older woman. "Ain't nobody to blame but Andrew for lettin' the walkers inside. It just happened."

Samara snorted cynically. She wasn't willing to believe that. That woman was a liability that couldn't save herself if she had a hundred chances to.

"I found Shane." The marshal announced suddenly, but taciturnly. She noticed the way the corner of his eye twitched and how the muscles in his arms tensed. "Why did you shoot him in the chest? You know what happens."

There was a pause as Rick leaned against the panel, assuming a cross-armed position similar to the marshal's. "I didn't. Carl did." That seemed to bewilder the Native as the news unexpectedly dropped on her. "That night, Shane and I fought and Carl saw him pull a gun on me. Next thing I heard was a gunshot and in that moment I thought I was dead, but instead it was Shane who fell." Rick took a deep breath, feeling the memory weight down on his shoulders. "Once he came back, I put him down."

"Damn, that's fucked up." Samara couldn't even imagine how Carl must have felt, having to shoot someone that had been in his life since he was born. "Your kid…Is he alright?"

Carl had changed drastically since killing Shane and the months on the road hadn't improved his disposition, seemingly cementing it in. Rick knew that his son had to grow up one day, especially in these hard times, but he just wished it hadn't had to be so traumatizing.

"As well as he can be, all things considered."

Blue eyes shifted back to the woman at his side.

"…How are you?" He asked gently. Samara had lost weight again.

"I'm just surviving."

"Everyone's survivin' these days." He rebuked her simple answer. "How are you really?"

The woman shifted uncomfortably before hardening. "Does it matter?"

Disappointment left him with a sour taste. Maybe he shouldn't have hoped for a real answer.

"It really is good seein' you again."

"Why? I wasn't exactly your favorite person before we parted ways."

"No, you weren't, but that's in the past." He had long forgiven all transgression the marshal had made during her brief stay with them. "What matters is that you're here now."

The woman made a sound like she didn't quite know what to believe, before stepping away from the panel.

"I'll see you in the morning."

"Samara..."

The Native paused.

"I'm sorry we left you and Andrea that night. I really am."

Like an ice sculpture she stood in front of the door with her hand on the knob. Samara said nothing as she walked out, just as silent as she came in.

Rick watched through the windows as the marshal walked back to the prison. Once he lost sight of her, he settled back in his chair. His mind was swimming with dark news and his headache was knocking on his forehead like a jackhammer.

This was going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

Samara felt herself being shook awake. With a grunt, she rolled over and tried to appear as sound asleep as possible. She didn't want to get out of bed, it was too warm. The person trying to wake her up could go screw himself.

Just when she thought she was in the clear, Samara felt a painful pinch on her cheek.

"What the fu—!"

With eyed wide open, Samara searched for the bastard interrupting her bogus sleep. Once she found him, her face fell into a dull, scathing glower.

"You know, the point of having my own cell is not having to wake up to your mug every day."

Michonne snorted. "Trust me, the feeling is mutual. Now, get up."

"Why?"

"I need your help with something."

The sword-wielder looked down on the marshal cocooned in a mountain of blankets. It reminded Michonne of an extremely swaddled newborn.

"Uh…" Samara turned away like a spoiled brat. "How about no."

With narrowed eyes, Michonne grabbed hold of the blankets and pulled with all her strength. Samara rolled as she was deprived of her only means of warmth.

"Son of a—!" The marshal sat up with a rat-nest instead of hair, disheveled clothing and an unpleasant scowl. "What the hell is so important? It's fucking freezing!"

"Stop complaining and come on."

Michonne threw the blankets over the woman's head, making her swim in the fabrics. As soon as Samara managed to emerge from the sea of fluff, she sighed despondently. She could have been in such a nice, balmy meditative state right now, but no, Michonne just had to ruin it.

—If this became a regular thing, Samara will move to a different building without telling anyone.

With a groan, the marshal threw on a pair of jeans, her combat boots and a brightly colored fleece. As soon as she stepped out of her cell, Michonne leaned away from the wall and led her companion out of Cell Block C. As they made twists and turns throughout the prison, they ended up in an indoor gym. One half was composed out of outdated workout equipment and the other, separated by a chain fence, was a small basketball court.

"What are we doing here?"

"I need a partner at bench pressing."

You've got to be kidding me…

Samara massaged the bridge of her nose as she reined in the urge to strangle her companion. "Michonne, tell me you didn't just wake me up at the crack of dawn for a fucking gym session?"

"I did and you weren't actually sleeping, you were just lying in bed with your eyes closed."

She groaned loudly so Michonne could hear her level of exasperation, but knowing the sword-wielder, she probably didn't care. Samara walked up to the head of the bench and took a hold of the metal pole of the barbell. Michonne settled on her back and began her exercise.

"Never pegged you for a gym rat."

"My off time after work." Michonne breathed heavily as she pushed on the barbell. "After so many court hearings, stubborn clients and general stress, this was the only way I could blow off steam so I took advantage of it whenever I could. Plus, I was alone. No boyfriend, no ex-husband, no kids, no worrying about unfinished homework or about uncooked dinners."

"I never liked going to the gym, I preferred to run in the open air." Every night she would make a run around the neighborhood, mostly to clean her mind about whatever new annoyance or horror she saw at work. "My husband had a punching bag at home and I sometimes used it when he didn't. It felt good, especially when I was angry." Samara looked at the numerous bags hung around the gym. "I might pick it up again."

"Have you told him?"

It seemed Michonne knew she had spoken with the sheriff last night.

"He's alright with it and he agreed to help us with supplies when the time comes."

The sword-wielder placed the barbell back on its hook and rose to a seated position. Sweat trickled down her skin as she caught her breath.

"We could have a life here, Samara."

The Native sighed as she rested her forearms on the bar, her head hung low. Michonne didn't need to tell her that, she knew the moment she saw this place. It was secure enough for them to live here for a very long time and they had all the necessary facilities to reside comfortably—beds, water, heat in winter, means to cook food, space to make a garden.

"I know, but I can't. There are too many skeletons here with them." Samara's eyes connected with Michonne's from underneath her lashes. "I made a mistake staying with them once. I'm not going to repeat it."

"Because you cared?"

Her eyes narrowed, her dark locks shadowing the dark circles. "Because they made me choose with my heart instead of my head."

"You never once tried to leave us."

Her implication was clear-cut—Samara was being contradictory. She was capable of living with people and caring for them, but now she was saying she couldn't when she had already proven that with her and Andrea.

"That's different. We never put ourselves in a situation where the only way out was by saving our own skin, even at the expense of others. The two of us are on the same wavelength most of the time and that's why every decision we make goes smoothly. I could never achieve that with Grimes and because of that, we argued a lot. I even attacked him once." Samara straightened out as she grimaced at the memories. "In the long run, I can't work with him. Not until he pulls his head out of his ass and sees the broader picture."

"And what is the broader picture?"

Samara's fingers gripped the barbell's pole with white knuckles.

"You kill, you live."

Michonne huffed. "From what I understood from the Asian, he already knows that."

"Because he killed a convict? Big fucking deal. Who wouldn't kill them just on basic principle?"

"What is it really about, Samara?" Michonne was starting to get tired of the woman's perpetual skirting around the subject. She wanted an actual motive, not a shallow one.

Samara paused.

"I have my reasons." The marshal's eyes tingled with the feeling of bloodshot, a product of too many restless nights, but she was also tired of this discussion. Samara had made her point; she was going to leave with or without her companions.

Michonne settled back on the bench and returned to her exercise. With reluctance, Samara stepped back into her place as the woman's spotter.

"Look Michonne, if you want to stay behind when the time comes, then stay." Samara felt her lips itching to contort into a grimace. That was the worst case scenario, but one she was willing to bear through. She wasn't about to push them into doing what she wanted despite her wishes. Samara might not have had any reservations with Grimes, but she couldn't do it to Andrea and Michonne. "It's not like I'm holding a gun to your head."

"You gave us an ultimatum."

"That's hardly a threat." Even Michonne knew her actual threats involved more bodily harm than anything. "I'm not going to hold it against you. I know that as long as you and Andrea have each other, you'll be alright."

"And what about you?"

"I'll live."

Samara felt the urge to hide her face as deep coffee eyes pinned her on the spot. The marshal could almost feel them probing her mind for answers. Every time Michonne did this, Samara swore she felt baby spiders crawling all over the sensitive tissue of her brain.

—Samara often wondered why Michonne hadn't chosen a profession in psychology rather than law.

"It's a long and empty stretch of road, Samara." Michonne's words sounded as ominous as an approaching storm. "You know as well as I do what isolation does."

Samara swallowed thickly. "I'll be fine."

Their conversation was put on hold as the doors opened and Tyreese walked in. Both women watched him intently as they stood as still as possible. It took the man a few steps in to notice the other occupants and he minutely jumped out of his skin with a curse on the tip of his tongue.

To Samara's dim surprise, he just chuckled it off. "Morning. Sorry about that, I'm usually the only one up so early."

"You can thank her for that." Samara rudely tipped her head towards her heavy-lifting companion. "Some of us are actual human beings with regular sleeping hours."

Michonne scoffed knowing that Samara was full of shit. Neither of them have had regular sleeping hours since the world went down the drain.

"Hey…" The man approached them with a friendly smile making the wariness settle straight into their bones. They've had bad encounters with smiling people before—metal-hand guy—and some of those reactions became reflex. "We didn't start on the right foot yesterday and I'm sorry I shot at you."

Samara and Michonne exchanged a brief look. While apologizing for yesterday's Wild West shootout was something admirable, they just didn't understand why. If he was expecting them to apologize then he was shit out of luck. As far as Samara saw it, their actions had been justifiable.

"We started it, but at least we didn't hit anything vital."

Samara eyed Michonne disapprovingly, but the woman ignored her.

"Yeah, I'm thankful for that." Tyreese chuckled as he gently massaged the middle of his chest. "I actually wanted to leave the vest at the prison. I'm glad my sister managed to convince me to wear it."

"It would have been a loss for the group otherwise."

That tipped Samara off that Michonne was up to something. The sword-wielder didn't talk unless she had something to contribute to the discussion or because there was something that piqued her interest. She didn't make flighty conversation for the sake of it.

"How's the bruise?" Michonne wiped the sweat off her brow, not breaking eye contact with the man.

"Still hurts and I have trouble breathing at times, but I was lucky it was only that."

"You shouldn't strain yourself so early." Samara leaned against the barbell's rounded weights, scrutinizing the man. "Wait at least a few days before using the gym. Trust me, I've had my experiences with vests. Don't take it lightly."

"Don't worry, I just wanted to stretch my legs a bit."

Samara could see him scrutinize them in return, but between Michonne's stone wall and Samara's pokerface, there was nothing for him to see.

"Well, I'll leave you two ladies to it." He smiled one last time before walking away.

Lady…, Samara snorted as she tried to assimilate the word with her person.

Michonne's eyes followed Tyreese as he began a light exercise consisted of stretching. There was something about him that caught her attention.

Someone cleared their throat.

Michonne turned her head upwards and caught Samara's gaze. While anyone else would see passivity, the sword-wielder knew better. There was a cheeky slyness hiding behind those yellow-green irises.

"Is there something that caught your eye, Michonne?" Samara asked 'oh so innocently'.

The other woman rolled her eyes irreverently. There was nothing for the Native to saunter over.

"He seems familiar somehow. Like I've seen him before, but I just can't place it where."

The answer stood at the tip of her tongue, but for the life of her she couldn't voice it. Michonne racked her brain as she returned to her exercise, ignoring Samara's misplaced amusement.


 

Samara watched from behind dark lenses as a few walkers shuffled near the fence. She, Michonne, Andrea and Rick were walking the walkway between the prison's chain walls.

"We do a fence checkup every mornin' and one just before nightfall. Get rid of the stragglers and fix the fence were it might have loose wires or gaps."

After breakfast, Rick had taken it upon himself to show them around which was a welcome break as the others kept the three women under their careful watch as if disappearing at any moment. Dale even sat with them to eat.

"Do you leave them or move them somewhere else?" Andrea asked as she eyed a decomposing walker.

"Every few days we gather them up and burn 'em away from the prison. There's a spot in the forest we use. I'll show you on the next run. Everybody has a job here, no exceptions."

"I'm fine with that as long as you don't make me do household chores. I sure as hell ain't doin' that."

Samara agreed. This was not the farm and neither of the women will resign themselves to being domestic cats. They weren't capable of being that anymore.

"Andrea's a great sniper." Samara said as she lightly bumped the blonde's shoulder, a smirk on her face. "I've seen her kill targets from 1500 meters. She's of much more use to you up there."

Up there being the guard tower.

"Then you're welcome to it." Rick wouldn't say no to the offer. He knew that they would be better off on the forefront, brandishing weapons than doing anything else. From Glenn's words, the three women had heavily attacked them at the farm and at that time, he hadn't been sure they would've gotten out of it alive if their identities hadn't been revealed in time.

"What else is there?"

"Supply runs mostly, other than that we don't leave the prison. Lori, Beth and Carol take care of the food, clothes and inventory. Hershel is our medic and since the loss of his leg there ain't much he can do. Everyone else takes turns in the guard tower and on the fences, and volunteers go on runs."

"Have you had any problems except for the inmate that tried to kill you all?" Michonne asked as she speared her katana through the fence, putting down the walker rattling it.

"No." Rick watched entranced by the ease and fluidity in which Michonne wielded her katana. "We sealed off the other blocks and we don't go near them. The main area and cell blocks C and B are the only ones we use."

"So there are walkers here?"

"Yeah, but unless you open those doors there ain't no way for them to get out. Besides, we lock the cell block we live in at night just to be sure."

"Have you tried cleaning up the other blocks?" Andrea asked, disturbed by this news. She hadn't liked living with walkers back at the farm and she wasn't changing her outlook now.

"No and we ain't gonna." He said resolutely. "I'm not riskin' losin' anyone else."

After losing T-Dog, Grimes must have tightened the knot on his group. He most likely didn't want any more unnecessary risks.

"The generators, do you use them often?" Last night, Grimes had turned it on for them, but during the night Samara had had to use extra layers of clothes to keep warm.

"Not anymore. We used to when the cold got near zero degrees, but since winter is almost over we only use them to shower and even then it has to be short. Those things need diesel fuel and constant maintenance to work." Rick sighed as he looked over the withered fields. "I'll be glad when Georgia returns to its usually warm state."

"I still can't believe a few people managed to secure this place." Michonne said as she looked over the prison. It seemed far too big for just a handful of people to conquer it.

"Purpose and a good deal of desperation helped." The sheriff placed his hands on his hips as he scrutinized the women. "If you want, you can start watch duty today. Maggie and Tyreese are out for a few days until they recuperate. You can take their shifts."

"I'll take the tower." Andrea proclaimed. She wanted to stay as close to the prison as possible.

"And I'll run the fences tonight." Samara's eyes landed on something that halted her advance.

—There was a small wooden cross rising out of the ground.

The marshal felt her stomach coil as she knew who was buried there. Her steps took her in that direction before she even realized it.

The air was so quiet that she could hear her lungs taking in oxygen. There wasn't even the slightest breeze in the air, just her own thoughts racing around her head and the sound of her own heart smoothly drumming against her chest.

"Hey, T-Dog. I'm back."

Samara smiled for a second before she lowered herself to a crouch, pushing the sunglasses over her forehead. This was depressing. Again, she found herself in front of a grave. Again, she had to salute another dead comrade.

"Sorry you had to die. I actually liked you, you were a nice guy and you didn't swallow my bullshit. You helped me with Alistair and I'll always appreciate that."

That morning burying her furry companion had given her a whole new level of respect for him. After all, Alistair had just been a dog. Not many would have bothered, but T-Dog did for her sake.

Samara leaned forward as she noticed etchings in the simplistic, wooden cross.

"Theodore Douglas…So, that's your name." Samara smiled lightly. "It's funny, I never once asked you for it. You were always just T-Dog. It seemed enough to know at the time."

Pulling off her gloves, russet fingers felt the earth crumble and part underneath her fingers. The ground was cold as she cradled and crushed it in her palm.

"I don't know anything about you really, other than that you were religious." She looked at the barren cross devoid of anything but a name. "Did you have a wife, a girlfriend, kids? Were you alone? Did you help old grannies cross the street?"

There was such a deafening silence surrounding her. Not even the people walking the grounds of the prison could be heard. Such a profound stillness always had an impact on her person; too much of it had her mind wandering dangerous territories.

"Fuck, I hate graves. I never did know what to do or what to say." She let the dirt slip between her fingers. "I don't know any of your Christian prayers and I forgotten mine a long time ago, so it's a bit of an awkward situation."

Samara scratched the back of her head in awkwardness. This was the part where people said something emotional or inspiring about the deceased, but for the life of her she couldn't think of anything.

"You're probably laughing your ass off at seeing me mumble my way into a last goodbye. I was never really good at goodbyes. Too emotional." The Native sighed as she pulled on a weed. "Funny that I could talk about a dog, but can't find one single word for a human. Maybe that's irony."

Olive eyes settled back on the cross—the symbol of their God. "Did you find Heaven? Are you there, looking down on us? Maybe you already returned to the wheel of life, reborn as another being." The dark hues underneath her eyes expanded as Samara's thoughts took a down spiral. "Or maybe there's nothing after death, just an overwhelming nothingness with no speck of consciousness. Like a drop of water in an ocean."

Samara groaned as she cleared her head of such morbid thoughts. "I'm deviating. Sorry, I sometimes do that when I'm thinking of the past. It's an annoying habit I picked up in the recent year."

The marshal rose to her feet. It was time she returned to her duties and sitting around a grave was not going to help achieve them.

"I hope you found peace, T-Dog. It's the least we deserve after all of this. Goodbye."


 

After dinner, Samara made do of her promise and walked the fence with, surprisingly, the two former inmates.

She kept them in sight as they took the lead. The world might have changed, but Samara knew that old habits die hard and that was most apparent with convicts. They never changed, getting sent right back in the same shithole they crawled out of.

The skinny one, Axel if she remembered correctly, kept sneaking glances at her. Not at her figure or her face, but at her coat.

"What?" She asked once she caught him in the act. If he had a problem with her, he should speak up.

The man's eyes skirted undecided. Finally, Axel gathered enough courage to open his mouth. "You know that's a Union coat of arms, right?"

"Yeah, I know. The plaque at the museum I took this from said so itself."

"Why wear it?" His voice lowered to a whisper. "Doesn't it offend your friend with the dreads?"

Samara paused. People still think about that?

"I'm wearing it because it keeps me warm. What the hell does it matter? In case you haven't noticed, slavery hasn't been around for almost 150 years. These are different times with completely new problems that have nothing to do with something that happened over a century ago."

Hell, I'm not even white to begin with.

"Yeah, but…" His gaze traveled to his friend who just put down a walker with a crowbar.

Samara understood. He probably thought she was offending him with her display of a Confederate symbol.

"Hey, you have a problem with my coat?"

"No." Oscar didn't even look at her as he continued in his job.

"Problem solved." Now that she had a dialogue opened, she might as well learn a few things. "So, what were you two in for?"

"Breakin' and enterin'."

"Seriously?" Samara looked bewildered at Oscar. For a guy that broad shouldered, it seemed a petty crime.

"Was I supposed to be in for murder?"

"More like assault. You look the type."

He huffed in distaste. "And you're an expert on this?"

"I was a Deputy Marshal. I think I know a thing or two."

Oscar's lips contorted as he shook his head in displeasure. "Just what we need, another cop."

Samara couldn't help herself from smirking. Just the response she wanted.

"What about you?"

"Armed robbery, but the police fucked me over on it!" Axel frowned as he stabbed a walker in the forehead with a makeshift spear. "They pinned my brother's gun on me, but the only thing I used was a water pistol."

The marshal shook her head in mild incredulity. "It still amazes me how people can be that dumb…"

"I know, right?" Axel retrieved his spear as he ranted on the indignities of higher authority. "The cops were—"

"I'm talking about you, dipshit." A water gun…Who still did that?

Axel withdrew from her as if burned. "No need for name callin'..."

The woman approached him with a hawkish glower that had Axel back away in defense. He's seen that look before in dozens of other inmates and was smart enough to stay away.

"What use do you have here other than manpower?" She scrutinized his scrawniness unimpressed. "Or at least one and a half."

"We take care of the generators and we walk along the fences." Oscar answered as he approached, the tension in the air announcing impending danger.

"Seems a waste of food. I would have shot you along with the rest."

"I bet you would have." He scowled at her disdainfully. "I recognize your type."

She smirked derisively. "Oh?"

"Where I grew up, there were only two types of cops: the ones that didn't care if a ghetto kid got shot and the bad ones—the ones that made up their own rules. You're the type that probably broke a few laws to get your way, got in a lot of shit with your attitude, maybe even suspended at one point. Any of that sound familiar?" She was an open book in his mind. "I bet you've even beat up people to have 'em talk."

Samara laughed lowly as she twirled her machete. "I might have bended the law at times, but I never outright broke it. I hated the technicalities the justice system had so I stepped on a few toes to get my way." The Marshal job hadn't exactly been her favorite and she had been far from the perfect employee, but she tried to get the best results even if the means had been questionable. "And I only 'lightly' tapped detainees on the way to custody and that happened only when they gave me trouble, which was pretty much every single time. You're kind is dumb by nature."

"My kind?" Oscar grimaced as if he tasted a rotten flavor in his mouth. "Marshal, I don't have a kind. If I was anythin' like Tomas or Andrew, I wouldn't be standin' here today. I would be dead." He had seen what Rick was capable of and he was sure the man would have done the same to him if he had had posed a threat. "I've lost people out there because I was inside here, waitin' for help that never came. My wife, my children…they're dead while I'm still alive. I paid for my mistakes."

The man spread his arms to the side, his chest unguarded. "You wanna shoot me? Just try it."

A challenge.

"Hey, now!" Axel stepped between them as he noticed the woman's gloved fingers graze the handle of her gun. "Let's not get worked up. We're on the same side here."

The marshal's eyes narrowed sharply. "I've never once been on the same side as a convict and I'm not about to start now, not even at the end of the world."

Samara walked past Oscar, all the while glaring at him with as much force as possible. He never wavered, though.

Axel joined Oscar once the marshal distanced herself, continuing to destroy walkers with newfound zeal.

"That's one woman I don't wanna piss off." Axel watched uncertainly as Samara thrust her machete deep into a walker's open mouth.

Oscar was of the opposite as he couldn't care less of the woman's shitty disposition. He's seen far too many like her, the only difference here being the gender. "That there, that's what my dad used to call a 'dragon lady'."

Axel looked confused.

"A ball-buster."

"Oh."


 

As soon as everyone settled in for the night, Samara slipped away to the gym. The need to discharge her energy was urgent and what better way than to pick up a favorite pastime.

Wrapping up her knuckles tight and safe with cloth, Samara unzipped her tracksuit jacket and remained in a dark T-Shirt, grey sweatpants and sneakers.

The first punch had her wince. She hadn't been in a fistfight in quite some time, so hitting a 100lb bag was a painful revelation. Settling back in her once established stance, Samara could feel the rhythm slowly return to her and, soon, she was hitting the bag with enthusiasm.

Samara was so engrossed in her activity that she didn't hear the door open nor the uncertain steps following.

"Samara?"

The women in question froze, the punching bag swaying from the force used. With a hand she stopped the bag from striking her in the face and looked behind her, hoping that it wasn't the person she thought it was.

Carol stood just a mere distance away, worry and hesitation written all over her face. Samara could practically smell the anxiety that poured out of her like vapor.

"Can we talk?"

Samara's eyes narrowed. The woman was treading on dangerous territory here.

"I don't think that's a good idea."

Carol sighed as she swallowed thickly, summoning up the courage to confront her mistakes. "Samara, I really am sorry for what happened back then. It wasn't my intention to leave you."

"No, but you didn't do shit about it." Samara resumed her activity, her hits coming out more aggressive. The marshal was sitting on thin ice right now. One impulse and it would shatter, breaking her well composed mask.

—And Samara didn't want to know what she'll do when that happened.

Carol took a step closer. She wanted this matter settled between them. She wanted Samara to understand her side of the story.

"There's was nothing I could do—"

Samara hit the bag one more time before turning and glaring at the older woman.

"What you could have done was run into the forest like I told you, but no, you just had to turn hysteric and run right into a group of walkers!" Samara's voice rose with each word, never quite breaking into a shout. "And, stupid as I was, followed you instead of just reaching the forest."

"My daughter died there, Samara. I never wanted to step in that forest again even if it meant saving my life."

"You are one dumb bitch then." The marshal scoffed spitefully. "You not only endangered your life, but mine also!"

"I didn't ask you to follow me!"

"No you didn't, but you were so weak and pathetic that I just couldn't leave you to be eaten. If I'd known what would happen, I would've left you without a second thought!"

Samara approached Carol, fury in her eyes and fingers clenched into tight fists. She was so close to breaking, but tightly restrained herself. Not yet.

Carol took a step back before steeling herself and facing the angry Native. It took all her courage not to flinch when Samara stopped a breath away, her height towering over hers.

"Do you know what it's like laying under two walkers for almost an entire day?" Her voice trembled with faint traces of terror and rage as her eyes burned with hellfire. "Not being able to move or even blink in fear that they would realize you were there among them? Praying to whatever god was out there to save you and get no answer in return?"

Carol backed up into the wall as Samara caged her in with her arms on either side of her shoulders.

"Every second of every minute I thought it would be my last. Do you know what that does to someone?" Olive eyes searched Carol's for the answers she couldn't voice. "There were moments were I just wanted it to be over. For the waiting to stop and finally let the walkers know where I was just to end that horrifying feeling."

There were no words that could describe what she had been through. It had scarred her deeply, enough to leave a long lasting mark on her soul.

Samara punched the wall next to Carol, just inches away from the side of her temple. The older woman actually felt the impact as the force of it brushed the strands of her short hair.

"I couldn't sleep for weeks and every time I tried, I was right back on that field!" Teeth bared and eyes wide, Samara looked terrifying. Like a wraith ready to devour its next unfortunate soul. "There were times where I would scream myself awake. Scream and scream until my throat bled."

Not to mention the tears. There were times where she would start sobbing and both her companions had witnessed it to her mortification. Samara hated showing weakness even in front of two people she considered friends.

Russet fingers touched Carol's cheek, but it was far from gentle. Her nails dug in the soft skin startling the older woman.

"The worst part was that while I was pissing myself in fear, you were all together and on your merry way. You left me behind without even coming back to check."

"We had no choice!" Carol yelled as she pushed Samara's hand away.

"There's always a choice!"

Pushing away from the wall, the older woman backed away the younger, a frenzy in her eyes. "How could we have known you were alive?! I saw you go down. Daryl saw you go down and you didn't get back up again. We didn't know if the walkers had left or were still at the farm. We had no choice but to leave!"

"Fuck that." Samara laughed without a drop of amusement. "Daryl and I, we searched for your daughter for a month. We did the leg work while you sat around camp, twiddling your thumbs in concern. We might not have found her alive, but we tried. I know my reasons hadn't been exactly noble, but when I needed that favor returned, you turned your back on me. I guess I just wasn't important enough to waste time on."

She retreated from Carol, feeling burned out and wired up at the same time. The Native wanted this woman away from her, away from longer rising up her heckles. Everything was being stirred up again and Samara felt her insides shrivel into raisins.

Carol rubbed her cool temple as she attempted to calm her frazzled nerves. She hadn't screamed like that in a while, but she was troubled by the marshal's words. While she still retained the thought that there was nothing more she could have done at that time, she still felt guilty.

"…If it'll make you feel better, you can hit me."

Samara turned with shrewd eyes.

"Punch me. Beat me." Carol shrugged hopelessly. If this would make them even then she'll brave it. "I know you want to."

Samara snorted condescendingly. "What good would that do? You're already used to it. One more bruise probably won't matter."

Andrea had told her stories about Carol and her piece of shit husband. How he used to treat her like the dirt at the bottom of his soles. Women that came from abused households were so used to awful treatment that it ingrained itself into their beings like a second skin. A very thick skin.

"No, I want you to feel responsible." Samara hissed like a reptile, each word a poisonous drop. "I want you to go to sleep every night putting yourself in my shoes just for that one instance. To get a taste of the horror." The marshal was so close now that their breaths mingled. Olive green clashed against silver blue. "I want you to feel just as pathetic and weak as when you saw Sophia dearest walk out of that barn."

The older woman made a strangled noise deep in her throat as she shut her eyes tight.

"That is worse punishment than a fist ever could do to you." Samara gave the woman one last look before turning away to her heavy bag. This discussion was over. "I advise you not to speak to me again. As far as I'm concerned, you don't exist. I risked my life for you once; I'm not going to do it again."

Samara settled back into her stance.

"Go kill yourself for all I care."

The silence after had been deafening. Samara did not grace the other woman with another look nor did she attempt to hear her. Samara could never trust the woman again, not after what she had done and as such, was a non-entity in her mind. They were quits.

The door to the gym opened and closed with a sad, metallic wail and Samara began hitting the bag furiously as she was left alone once more. With each punch, she could feel a sting on her knuckles. The impact jarring her forearms right up to her shoulders.

This was good. Pain kept her focused and right now she was standing at the edge of the precipice. She needed an anchor to keep her from falling in.

Samara choked down a yell. She bit her lip as her punches became more and more frantic.

Stupid, stupid bitch! Weak, pitiful, laughable excuse of a woman!

With one last hit, Samara let out a short livid scream, leaving the bag to sway heavily from side to side.

With shallow, quick breaths, Samara paced back and forth with her fingers flexing erratically. There were spots of crimson on the wrappings and she knew the skin on her knuckles was cracked from too much brute force. There was a buzzing sound circling around her ears. The sound of static overshadowed her turbulent thoughts and dropped her into a pool of numbness.

Samara finally stopped moving and exhaled loudly. With shaky hands, she touched the floor as she lowered her body and rested there with her head between her knees.

In and out.

Samara centered herself as she found her bearings. Opening her eyes, she stared into her white gauzed hands and flexed them. The pain from the fabric grinding against her open wounds didn't bother her that much as she felt her whole being centered once again. The whistle in her ears dimmed until the world finally came back to normal.

It's over…It's finally over.

No longer could Samara feel that pressing urge for vengeance. She was finally free of that soul-sucking vortex that had plagued her for so many months.

Now…

Now, she could move forward and forget this entire affair ever happened.