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Unable to get through the school's barricaded gates or over the barbed wired walls, Lilly and her raiders were like sitting ducks, being peppered from arrows let loose from beyond the wall. The kids couldn't see them, but they knew what direction to shoot in.

"Agh! Shit!" Abel yelled in agony as a stray arrow got him in the shoulder. He quickly pulled it from his skin, cringing from the pain as he threw it to the ground. "Looks like these brats were ready for us!" he said to Lilly, who was taking cover behind a nearby tree.

"Shit, we don't have anything to break down that gate!" Lilly said, realizing she had underestimated the community of kids.

"We still got our sniper," said Abel. "If she keeps picking them off, they'll get scared. They'll give up. I mean, they're just kids."

Lilly didn't respond. She wasn't too confident about that. Clementine was turning out to be quite the adversary.

Abel was right about one thing, the sniper was a serious problem. Omar had already been injured, and every other time someone tried to shoot back they almost got their heads blown off.

"Shit!" the frustrated Violet cursed to herself.

Neither side could do much. One was stuck outside the gates while arrows rained down on them, and the other was pinned down by a sniper who was pissing Violet off more and more every second. When it came to marksmanship, the best aim they had with a bow and arrow was either Aasim or Violet, and only Violet was aggressive enough to try something as risky as the move she was about to make.

"The bitch is too far away to get a good shot with a bow. I've gotta get closer! You think you can cover me while I move up?" she called out to the others who were closest.

"Violet, that's insane, even for you," Aasim said.

"That is a really risky idea," Clementine said, worried for her new girlfriend's safety.

She had just confessed her feelings to Violet, she didn't want her getting killed over a dumb idea. The odds weren't good she'd even be able to make the shot if she got closer. If Clementine lost her now, she'd never forgive herself.

"Of course it's risky! It's all fucking risky! But we have to do something!" Violet yelled back as another shot rang out.

"Fuck," Clementine said to herself. She couldn't think of any other ideas, and they couldn't keep taking these shots forever. Eventually, someone was gonna get hit. "Fine, go! But don't you dare get killed!"

Violet gave a small smile. "I'll try."

"What, are you fucking serious?" Aasim asked. "This is a bad idea!"

"You got a better one? I'd be glad to hear it!" Clementine asked honestly.

"No. Goddammit, fine!" Aasim looked to the others. "Get ready to fire on three! One, two, three!"

At that moment, every kid with a bow other than Violet rose up from their hiding spot, firing on the sniper all at the same time. The sudden volley caught the raider off guard, distracting her as a few came close to the branch she was perched on. That was all Violet needed.

Before the sniper could gather herself, Violet dashed across the yard, taking cover behind a picnic table closer to the front gate. She just barely made it in time before a bullet hit the ground where her body was just a second before. She hugged the overturned picnic table like a wall, her blood pumping so fast she felt like her heart was about to explode.

"Jesus . . . okay, Violet. You got this," she said to herself, trying to catch her breath. "You've made tougher shots before."

She had been in desperate positions before, but none quite like this. This wasn't like other times when only she and maybe one other person's life was on the line. Everyone's life was on the line here. Her mind was so occupied with focusing on the sniper and waiting for the right time to take a shot, she didn't notice her left foot was sticking out ever so slightly. Clementine did, so did the sniper.

"Violet!" came Clementine's desperate cry.

Violet heard a loud crack as the sniper fired once more, but this time she finally hit flesh. The bullet tore open her boot and went straight through her foot, taking a couple of her toes along with it.

Violet screamed as the pain struck her, toppling over behind the table.

"No!" Clementine watched helplessly as her girlfriend writhed in pain, blood gushing from her foot where her fourth and fifth toes used to be. Aasim pulled her back down below cover.

"I told you it was a bad fucking idea!" Aasim shouted.

"Shut the fuck up Aasim!" Clementine shouted, not wanting to hear it. "Fuck, fuck! What do we do? We can't leave her out there!"

Clementine squirmed as Violet's cries grew louder. She was safe for the moment, for the rest of her body was covered by the table, but Clementine couldn't bear to hear her in that kind of pain. Her girlfriend was in agony with a good chunk of her foot blown off, bleeding on the cold ground. She had to do something.

"I have to help her!" Clementine said, but was tugged back by Aasim.

"Come on Clem, think! If you go out there, you'll just get shot too! Then where would we be?"

Clementine just stared at Aasim, saying nothing.

"Violet's gonna be okay, but we have to think of how we're gonna get through this."

As much as Clementine hated to admit it, Aasim was right. Going out there right now would most likely just get her killed.

"So then what the hell are we gonna do?" Clementine asked.

"I don't know, but we can come up with something. You're smart, I'm smart. We can do this!"

That's when Aasim noticed a friend of theirs, Mitch, sneaking around the perimeter of the courtyard, getting closer to Violet with each step. The sniper hadn't seen him yet.

"Shit, what the fuck is he doing?"

Clementine turned, seeing him as well. In his hands were some of the explosives that were meant for Lilly and the others if they got through the gates. What was he doing with them?

"Mitch! What're you—." Aasim started to shout, but Clementine covered his mouth.

"Don't give away his position. Maybe he's got a plan."

"Mitch? A plan? He'll just get himself killed!"

"Just give him a chance. He might not be the smartest guy, but we both know he's crafty."

"Shit. Okay. Not like he'll listen to us anyway," said Aasim.

Mitch managed to make his way to the picnic table Violet was lying behind, circling around to avoid being spotted.

"Fuck! Goddammit!" Violet continued to curse, her pain not letting up one bit.

"Hey Vi, how you holding up?" Mitch asked as he joined her behind the table.

"How the fuck does it look? Bitch blew off my fucking toes! I can't believe I was so stupid!" Violet yelled, blaming herself for what happened. "What the hell are you doing here Mitch? You don't even have a fucking bow!"

"I got something better. Don't worry, I've got a surprise for this cunt," Mitch assured her, taking out his igniter. "Just you wait."

Violet knew Mitch well enough. She was able to figure out what he was thinking pretty easily.

"Fuck, I thought my idea was crazy. You think you can make that throw?"

"Positive," Mitch said as he created a spark, igniting the fuse to his bomb. "Plug your ears Vi!"

Violet took her hands away from her bleeding foot to shove her fingers in her ears, as Mitch rose up from behind the table with his make-shift grenade in hand. The sniper had no idea Mitch had found his way behind the table. By the time she noticed him, Mitch had already hurled the explosive and ducked back behind the table. The sniper had no idea what was coming at her, until it blew up in her face.

Lilly and Abel watched in disbelief as the nearby tree exploded into a fiery inferno, the blast all but deafening them. Their sniper, or part of her anyway, landed at their feet. Nothing but the upper remains of a charred female torso.

"Jesus Christ! They've got fucking bombs?" Abel exclaimed, staring disbelievingly at the sniper's corpse.

The fire had engulfed the whole tree and was now spreading to others. Now it was raining flaming bits of tree on them as well as arrows, and their sniper had been taken out of the picture.

Lilly looked around at the carnage before her, and made up her mind. They had marched into battle overconfident, and they had underestimated Clementine and her new friends. This was a battle they couldn't win.

"Fuck it, this isn't worth it! We're falling back!"

"What? Are you serious? We can't let these brats beat us like this!" Abel protested.

"Look at her!" Lilly pointed to what was left of the sniper. "You want that to be you? We've already lost one soldier, and we're not even in their walls! We have no way to breach them! We'll lose more people trying to take this place than those kids are worth! We're leaving!"

"Shit! Bullshit!" Abel cursed, feeling humiliated.

The remaining raiders turned away, making a hasty escape back into the woods. The battle had been won. For now, Lilly and her people were gone, back to where they came with their tails between their legs.

When Violet was sure the explosion was over, she unplugged her ears. She groaned, fighting back the pain from her mutilated foot as she turned herself around, peeking out the side of the table, for she was unsure if the sniper was still a threat. Her eyes widened when she saw Mitch had hit his mark. The tree the sniper had been perched in had been torched, the upper half blown completely off. No one could have survived that.

"Holy shit, Mitch! You nailed that bitch! Nice fucking throw!" she said with an earnest smile.

"Told you it would work," Mitch said proudly with a smug grin.

"Cocky asshole," Violet chuckled, before her pain returned and a cringing frown overtook her face. "Shit that hurts!" she cried, wrapping her hands around her foot again, pressing hard.

"Violet!" yelled Clementine as her and a few others rushed over as soon as the coast was clear.

Aasim looked on in disbelief at the burning tree beyond the wall, still in shock.

"I. . . can't believe it."

"Mitch, that was fucking awesome!" yelled Willy as he rushed to the scene. "You blew that raider right out of the sky!"

"Yeah Mitch, I guess you saved us," Aasim admitted, looking to the hero of the day.

"You say that like you had any doubt," Mitch smirked.

"Alright, don't let it go to your head dude," Aasim frowned. "Those explosives were meant for another part of the plan, and you wasted them on one person."

"Yeah, the plan that wasn't working," Mitch countered.

"Don't listen to him Mitch," Willy argued. "You're the fucking man!"

"It was a really good throw," Clementine added. "Thanks, Mitch."

"Oh god," sighed Aasim, rolling his eyes.

"I'm gonna go sneak up the tower, see if this fight's over or not!" Willy said, breaking away.

"Yeah, good idea," Clementine said, the looking down to Violet, who was still on the ground. She knelt down beside her, unsure of what to say. "Violet, I'm so sorry."

"Hey Clementine," the panting Violet said to her girlfriend, forcing a smile. "Wasn't sure if I'd get to see you again."

"Shut up," Clementine smiled back, planting a quick kiss on her cheek.

"Whoa," Aasim said, stunned at the display.

"Uhh," gaped Louis, also confused. "I have . . . several questions."

"Later," Clementine ignored them, standing up and turning away. "Ruby! We need your help! It's all clear to come out!"

No sooner did Ruby get the go ahead did she scramble out from her hiding place, rushing over to tend to the injured Violet.

"Jesus. Violet, two of your toes are gone," Ruby said, a little disgusted.

"You don't think I know that?" Violet shouted back, aggravated.

"Hey, it could be worse. You could be dead," shrugged Louis.

"Yeah, thanks. Asshole."

"I'll go get my supplies. Stay here," Ruby said, running off.

"Where exactly would I go?" Violet yelled after her.

"Ruby's just freaked out, give her a break," Clementine said, holding the shaking Violet as steadily as she could.

"Give her a break? I'm the one missing half a foot!"

Louis knelt down beside Clementine. "It's okay, Vi. You'll live. You'll still be able walk just fine. Well, mostly fine. There are worse things to lose, like a hand . . . or your apparent way with the ladies," he smirked, looking to Clementine.

Clementine blushed a bit, "Come on Louis. Don't be weird."

"No, really it's impressive. Aasim should take a few notes from you, Violet."

"Dude, come on," Aasim protested, his insecurities showing.

Violet found herself laughing at that, a momentary distraction. Louis smiled, looking to Clementine.

"See? I made her laugh. Nothing weird here. Just making things a little lighter."

Clementine smiled back, "Thanks Louis."

"Clem?" came AJ's voice, finally stepping out into the open. "Is it over? Did we win?" he asked, joining the group.

"Not sure yet little guy, but we haven't heard anything from them. That's a pretty good sign."

"I see them!" came Willy's voice from the tower, binoculars in hand.

Clementine looked to him anxiously, waiting for the news.

"They're retreating! We won!"

A large, relieved cheer quickly spread among the kids. They had fought back Lilly and her raiders, no one had been taken, and no one had been killed. Or so they thought, anyway. Violet spotted Ruby exiting the school, some medical supplies in hand.

"Oh thank God," Violet sighed.

Ruby paced down the stairs, when something caught her eye. She looked, and her eyes went wide with horror.

"Oh no . . . no!" Ruby cried as she rushed towards what she had seen.

"What? What's wrong?" Clementine yelled, confused.

"Omar!" came Ruby's distraught, now sobbing voice.

In that moment, everyone's heart sank at the same time. Omar. In all the confusion, he had been forgotten. Clementine, AJ, Mitch, and Aasim rushed over, while Louis stayed with Violet. As they neared, Clementine could clearly see Ruby's somber, tear-ridden face. Tennessee was there too, looking drained and deflated. They were already too late. When they arrived, all they could do was look down and stare helplessly at Omar's still, pale corpse.

"No. . ." Aasim shook his head, disbelievingly. "Fuck!"

"But how? He only got shot in the leg!" AJ pointed out.

"The sniper must have hit an artery," Clementine said solemnly, kneeling down beside Ruby and Tennessee.

"You were the one who dragged him here, you didn't realize how serious it was? How much blood he was losing?" Mitch demanded from Clementine.

"If I did I never would have left him! He . . . he told me to go," Clementine said, fighting back tears. As much as she wanted to defend herself, she felt totally responsible for this.

"If you had told someone he was that bad, maybe we could have saved him!" said Mitch.

"I forgot all about him. I'm so sorry," Clementine admitted, a few tears falling from her face. "We were so close."

She thought they were in the clear. She thought everyone had made it. Their victory was resounding and decisive, but it had come at a price, as all things do.

"Fuck! God Dammit!" Clementine yelled, futilely slamming her fist down on the ground.

"Clem, you tried your best," AJ said to her. "It's not your fault. You didn't know. You can't save everyone."

Clementine looked to AJ, for he was echoing her own lessons back to him.

"I know AJ," Clem nodded, wiping her tears away with her sleeve. "But I thought for once I had. I thought for the first time, everyone was okay."

Aasim turned to Mitch. "It's not her fault Mitch, you were just as caught up in the fight as everyone else. Same thing would have happened to you. Clementine did fucking great, and you know it. If it weren't for her, everyone one of us would be dead or kidnapped, not just Omar."

Mitch seethed with anger, looking for someone or something to blame, but even Mitch knew Aasim was right. Clementine had done so much to protect them. She had proven herself to him as trustworthy in the greenhouse, and the plan and the fortifications were all her. If it wasn't for Clementine, they'd all be done for. Mitch huffed, but eventually conceded.

"I'm sorry, I just, I need a minute," Mitch said, breaking away.

"We gotta make sure he doesn't turn," Aasim said, turning back to Clementine.

"Yeah, you're right," Clementine agreed reluctantly, pulling out her knife.

Ruby turned away, not wanting to watch as Clementine planted the knife into Omar's limp skull.

Aasim looked to Ruby, "There's nothing you can do for him. Go help Violet, she needs you."

Ruby nodded and departed without a word. Clementine watched her run over to Violet and Louis, mouthing words she couldn't hear, but she could guess. They had already assumed the worst from everyone's reaction, but now their worst fears were confirmed. Violet hung her head in dismay, slumping on her side, feeling like a broken, useless tool. Ruby began treating her injury while Louis knelt down by her, no doubt trying to console her again, but no amount of jokes would make this okay. Truth be told, only losing one person was a pretty good result, all things considered, but it didn't make the death of a friend any easier to deal with.

Still, it was a victory. A bittersweet one, but a victory nonetheless. Violet met Clementine's gaze, and for a long, silent moment they just stared at each other from across the courtyard. They had both made it. They still had a future to look forward to, together. They still had a chance. Everyone alive did. Violet managed a smile, mouthing two small words. Small enough for Clementine to read her lips.

"Thank you."

Chapter Text

A beating heart and a microphone

A ticking clock in an empty home

Still tells of these times so long ago

Even though I've come so far

I know I've got so far to go

And any day now

I'll Explode

Rise Against-Like the Angel


 

The next day was a rough one, though not nearly as bad as the one before. There was a strange feeling in the air. Everyone was relieved the attack had come and gone, and it could have been a lot worse, but Omar, their friend, was still dead. It wasn't exactly something they could celebrate over.

Once again, Clementine and AJ found themselves on their way to a funeral. Clementine hoped this would be the last one for a long time. Hopefully Lilly and her raiders would stay away. Hopefully.

"Clem, I don't like funerals. They're sad," AJ said as they neared the graveyard.

"No one likes funerals AJ. It always sucks when someone dies, but we have to go. It'd be rude if we didn't, and disrespectful to Omar," said Clementine.

"Yeah, I know," AJ said solemnly.

The pair arrived at the school cemetery to join her grieving friends, but not everyone was there yet. At least the digging wouldn't take as long, since they had found a shovel in the greenhouse two weeks ago. Mitch stood in the halfway finished hole, hard at work. It wouldn't be much longer. Aasim, Willy and Tennessee stood by, but the rest were missing. Clementine couldn't help but be surprised at her girlfriend's absence. She expected Louis to blow off helping out to prepare the funeral, but Violet? That wasn't like her. Then Clementine remembered the injury she had received the night before, and felt stupid for not thinking of it sooner. Of course she wouldn't be expected to help dig after a gunshot wound to the foot. Still, she expected their leader to at least be here.

"Where's Violet?" Clementine asked, worried it had something to do with her foot.

"We decided to let her sleep in, you know, 'cause of her foot," Tennessee said. "Not to mention all the stress that had piled up on her trying to keep this place together the past two weeks."

"That's thoughtful, but I don't think Violet would appreciate you letting her miss this. She takes these things seriously," said Clementine.

"That's what I said," Aasim added, "but Tennessee insisted."

"I know she might get mad, but she needed the rest. I'd rather she wasn't angry, but still. She deserves it," replied Tennessee.

Clementine smiled at that. Tennessee truly was a good-natured soul. No one could ask for a more thoughtful friend.

The body of Omar lied next to the hole, wrapped head to toe in blankets and tablecloth. It was far from a proper coffin, but it was better than nothing. Definitely more than most people got in this unforgiving world. Mitch stopped for a moment, catching his breath.

"Anyone wanna take over for a bit? There's not much left to go."

"Yeah, I'll go for a bit," Clementine said, hopping in the hole. "Haven't done anything to help so far."

Mitch gladly handed her the shovel and climbed out, eager to get a break. He stood over her now, taking a chug of water as Clementine set to work.

"Digging fucking sucks," Mitch said.

"Yeah, I know, especially when it's a grave." Clementine replied.

"Hello all," came a familiar, soft voice.

They all turned to see the smiling Louis, who had just arrived. He looked to Clementine just below with a smirk, a joke in mind as usual.

"Hey Clem, digging yourself into another hole I see."

Clementine groaned, but playfully.

"Really dude, funeral jokes? That's in bad taste, even for you," Aasim berated him.

"You know, you constantly getting on his case is way more annoying," Mitch said to Aasim. "He deals with shit by making jokes. Get over it already."

"Yeah Aasim, Omar wouldn't have wanted us to be so serious and depressed. He liked Louis's jokes," said Willy.

Aasim flinched a bit. "Whatever, but I don't think it's funny," he said, dropping the subject when he saw he was outnumbered.

"I thought I'd try to break the tension in the air, but yeah, this is a funeral. So I'll try to lay off a bit," Louis said to Aasim.

"Oh, well, good. I'd appreciate it," Aasim said, a little surprised.

"You see Ruby in there?" Willy asked, stepping forward.

"Yeah, she should be out soon too," Louis answered, looking down at Clementine, who had gone back to digging the grave. "You having fun down there?" Louis teased her.

"Yeah, so much fun. Why don't you come join me?" Clementine said back as she worked.

"Nah, I'm good," Louis replied with a smirk.

"You know, when I was a kid, I thought digging sounded fun," Mitch started. "Went out in my backyard and tried to dig an underground hideout. After about ten minutes I bailed. Digging's not fun. It's work."

"Yeah, one of the worst kinds," Clementine added, starting to get tired.

"Hey everyone, sorry I'm late," came Ruby's voice as she finally stepped into the cemetery, looking disheveled. "I slept like shit."

"Because of Omar?" Tennessee asked.

"Yeah . . ." Ruby said, thinking back to last night as she stared solemnly at the wrapped corpse of her friend. "We went a whole year without losing anyone, and now two funerals right after another? It ain't a fun feelin', that's for sure. I almost forgot what it was like."

"I wish I could," Clementine sighed, pausing for a moment. "Damn, I'm starting to sweat."

"Here, I'll do the rest," Aasim said, stepping into the hole. "Why don't you go wake up Violet? We're almost ready now."

"Yeah Clem, we know you'd like to see her again," Louis said, teasing again.

Clementine thought about saying something back, but Louis wasn't wrong. At all. Clementine was glad Louis didn't seem to be jealous of her and Violet. She was worried Louis might have a thing for her, but maybe she was wrong.

"You're right, I would," Clementine said, handing the shovel to Aasim.

Ruby giggled a bit at Clementine's enthusiasm as she climbed out of the hole. Mitch helped her up when she started having trouble, for he whole was pretty deep by then.

"Can I come Clem?" AJ asked with a smile.

Clementine hesitated. She had hoped to get a moment alone with Violet, and couldn't exactly act the same way if AJ was there, but she didn't want to tell him no. Clementine still hadn't figured out a way to explain her relationship with Violet to AJ, although she knew he'd have to at some point.

"Why don't you wait here with us little guy?" Ruby said for Clementine, reading her mind. "I'm sure Tennessee would love to hang out with you a bit."

"Oh, um, alright," Alvin Jr. shrugged, happy to talk to Tennessee some more.

"Thanks," Clementine whispered to Ruby as AJ walked off.

"Don't mention it," said Ruby back.

Clementine wasted no more time, headed towards the school doors at a quick pace. She entered the building, hastily making her way to Violet's room. By the time she got to Violet's door, Clementine was excited enough to forget the tragic reason she was coming to get her girlfriend. She knocked on the door, deciding it best not to just walk in.

"Violet? It's Clementine. It's time . . .for the funeral," she said, her voice deflating halfway through when she realized she really shouldn't be so happy about this.

Violet gasped at the sudden knock at her door, instantly awakening. She had always been a very light sleeper. She had just come out of a very vivid dream, and it took a minute for her mind to adjust, so she didn't catch anything Clementine had said. Then she tried to stand and quickly felt a jolt of pain shoot up her leg, and everything came flooding back to her.

"Shit," she mumbled, looking at her bandaged, mutilated foot. "This is gonna suck so hard."

"Violet?" came Clementine's voice again. "Everyone's out there, and we're ready to start."

"What?" Violet asked out loud in confusion.

She hobbled over to the window, for she could see the graveyard from her room. She peered out, seeing everyone gathered around, waiting for her. She was late to Omar's funeral. If Clementine didn't come get her, she would have slept through the whole thing. Not that they would have done it without her, but it still made her feel awful.

"Violet?" came Clementine's voice again. "You okay?"

"Uh, yeah," Violet answered. "Give me a minute to get dressed," she said, for she sure as hell wasn't going to wear the same bloodstained, filthy clothes from the night before. She grabbed a fresh pair of pants and a clean black top, her vest slipping her mind. She looked over to her shoes, cringing a bit when she saw the hole in the end from where the bullet went through. She couldn't imagine how painful it would be for her to try to even get a shoe on her left foot, let alone walk in it.

"Fuck that," Violet said to herself, deciding to go barefoot, not wanting to get her socks dirty either.

Clementine jumped a bit as Violet's door opened suddenly, revealing her groggy girlfriend at last.

"Clementine, shit. I can't believe I'm late. Why didn't anyone come get me sooner?" Violet asked, annoyed.

"We thought it'd be best to let you sleep, with your foot and the stress and all," Clementine explained quickly, deciding not to pin all the blame on Tennessee.

"Oh," Violet said, her tone changing. That's not something she asked for, or even wanted, but she felt bad getting mad about it. "Well, thanks. I guess."

"You're not wearing any shoes," Clementine noticed, now getting a good look at Violet's wounded foot.

"Yeah, shoes are gonna hurt like a bitch. Don't wanna deal with it right now."

"How's your foot?" Clementine asked, clearly concerned.

"How it looks, pretty much. Way better than losing it, but I'm down two toes, so that sucks. I don't think I'll be able to make that climb up the tower for a while, so any more romantic star-gazing dates you had planned are gonna have to be postponed," Violet said with a smile.

Clementine giggled, "Funny, but that does actually really suck."

"Yeah, it does," Violet said, rubbing her arm as she looked away awkwardly. "It was one of the best nights I've had in a long time, before . . ." Violet trailed off, knowing Clementine knew what she meant.

"Before it went to shit, yeah," said Clementine, finishing her thought. "I really liked it too, but we don't need the stars."

Clementine leaned in on the unsuspecting Violet, suddenly kissing her. Violet was shocked at first, but definitely didn't resist. It only lasted for a short moment, about as long as their first, before Clementine pulled away. Between her crappy balance and the kiss, Violet looked like she was about to fall over.

"Wow. . ." was all Violet could get out, at a loss for words.

Violet couldn't believe this was happening again. When she lost Minnie, she never thought she'd manage to find someone else who made her feel this way, an overwhelming sensation that made her whole body feel hot, yet light at the same time. Like she could float away at any moment. She had forgotten what it felt like. It was the strongest, most intense feeling of her life. The only thing that came close was the pain she felt after losing it. After losing Minnie. That couldn't happen again. She wouldn't let it. Not to Clementine. Not her too.

"Shit, everyone's waiting for us," Violet said, already feeling bad about blowing off her friend's funeral to make out with her new girlfriend. "We gotta go."

"Yeah," Clementine agreed, albeit reluctantly. "You want some help with the walk?"

"No, I'll manage," Violet said, not wanting to be a burden.

She broke away towards the exit, hobbling her way down the hall.

"Okay," Clementine said, a little disappointed as she took off after her.

Everything was going smoothly, until Violet came face to face with her new worst enemy. Stairs. Violet paused at the top, looking a little worried. Her balance was awful and she could barely walk on the one foot. The last thing she needed was a fall down the stairs.

"You sure you don't want help?" Clementine asked again.

Violet huffed. "Alright, fine. Just for the stairs though."

"Just for the stairs," Clementine repeated with a smile, carefully holding onto her as they made their way down the stone steps.

They took one stair at a time, both girls planting both feet on each one. Slowly but surely, they were making progress.

"Careful not to smile so hard Clem, you might break your face," Violet said, not enjoying this as much as her, although she had to admit it wasn't all bad.

The comment made Clementine laugh, forcing a smile from Violet as they neared the end of the flight.

"God, they must be wondering what the hell is taking us so long," Violet said as they finished the final step, and Clementine was finally forced to release her hold.

"I'm sure Louis is joking about it right now," said Clementine.

"Oh yeah, I'm sure he is. But that's your fault. You sure didn't waste any time letting everyone know about us," Violet said, remembering the quick kiss on the cheek Clementine had given her the night before, exposing their relationship to the whole school.

"Oh come on, I thought you were gonna die for a second. They were gonna find out eventually anyway."

"Yeah, yeah," Violet said, playfully blowing her off as they neared the school's front doors.

Mitch was the first one to see the couple as they neared, as the others were talking amongst themselves.

"Fuckin' finally," Mitch said, nudging Willy to look.

Soon everyone was looking at Violet and Clementine as they slowly approached.

"You guys finish your make-out session or what?" Mitch asked, for he had been the most impatient.

"Mitch," Ruby punched his arm, gesturing towards AJ, who seemed confused.

"Oh. Shit. Sorry," said Mitch.

"Yeah, saw that one coming," Violet mumbled to herself. "Fucking Mitch."

"I mean, he's not far off," Clementine said honestly, feeling a bit bad.

"Shut up. Don't tell them about that." Violet warned.

"I wasn't gonna tell them. That's personal." Clementine assured her.

The pair was close to the group now, so even their whispers would be heard if they kept talking. They passed Louis, who was the furthest out.

"You forget something Vi?" he asked her, noticing she was barefoot.

"Nope," Violet quipped as she passed, not looking at him. "Alright, here we go. Another funeral," Violet said, taking a breath. She sat down on the grass to take the pressure off her foot. "Does anyone want to start? I need a minute."

For a moment, no one spoke up, as if waiting for someone else to go first. Before it got too awkward, Louis spoke up.

"Alright, I guess I'll be the one to break the ice, as usual," Louis said, stepping up.

And so the funeral proceedings began. Almost everyone said at least something. Clementine wished she could think of something, but truth be told, she got to know Omar the least of anyone else. Making something up would just sound disingenuous, so she respectfully stayed quiet. By the time ten minutes had passed, the funeral was already almost over with.

"It's gonna be rough without you man, you were our best cook," Mitch admitted with a sigh.

Mitch stepped away now, and the only thing left to do was to wrap it all up. Of course, that fell to Violet. She took a breath as she prepared to speak. It was no secret she hated speeches and wasn't the best people person. She wasn't good with words like other people Clementine knew, but she was unafraid, and spoke from the heart. That's why they needed her.

"Alright everyone," Violet spoke up, not wanting everyone to get too sad. "I know . . . I know this shit's never easy, but let's remember what we did last night. We won. We showed those child-snatching assholes not to fuck with us."

"Yeah we did," Mitch said, supporting her with a smile.

"I don't think they'll be back anytime soon," Violet continued, but didn't want this to stretch on too much longer. "They're afraid of us now. We lost Omar, but . . . he died so we don't have to lose anyone else to those shitheads. I'm not saying we shouldn't be sad, but we should be happy too." Violet stopped, going over everything in her head. "I guess that's it. Anyone else have anything to say?"

No one spoke up. Everyone seemed content to leave things at that.

"Okay, then I guess we're good. Thanks for coming everyone."

With that, people began to disperse, eager to get back to their lives before all of this heaviness. Violet sighed, almost collapsing in exhaustion as she sat on the ground next to the graves. Her eyes went to Minnie's, and she was reminded of Marlon's lie. Minnie and her sister were still out there, forced to fight for those raiders, if she were still alive that is. But what could she do about it? Nothing, not right now. They had no idea where the raiders were from, or how many there were. She didn't want to risk losing more people, especially not so soon, but the idea of leaving the twins made her feel like a coward. It was like there was no right answer. It was all so frustrating for her. Is this what drove Marlon to insanity? She really, desperately hoped she didn't turn out like he did. He used to be a good guy once, but the pressure and guilt got to him, broke him down. Is that what would happen to her?

"Hey Violet," came Clementine's voice as she sat down beside the troubled girl, breaking her from her trance.

"Hey," Violet said simply, still not fully present.

"For what it's worth, I think you did a pretty good job just now. You said what they need to hear, and that's what matters," Clementine said with a comforting smile.

"Thanks," Violet said honestly. "It's just, I don't think I can do this Clementine. This leader shit's wearing me down fast. Real fast. I wasn't made for this. I always thought Marlon was, but . . ." Violet trailed off.

"You're not like Marlon. You're strong."

"What if Marlon used to be strong?" Violet asked, turning to her. "What if it was all this pressure that broke him down? Made him lose his mind? If it could happen to him, then it could happen to me," Violet admitted.

That's when Clementine remembered what Louis had said to her before, all the regrets he had for letting Marlon take on everything alone.

"For years I sat around making stupid jokes, playing stupid games, while my best friend was left with all the responsibility. All the tough calls. All the sleepless nights. And eventually, a bullet in the head. And I didn't do a damn thing about it."

It made Clementine realize something. It gave her an idea, but she took a while trying to figure out what to say first, meanwhile poor Violet looked more and more dejected with each passing second.

"What if . . ." Clementine began, hoping she's got this right. "What if the reason Marlon lost it was because he had to bear all that weight alone? What if you didn't have to do it alone?"

Violet perked up, looking to Clementine with an intrigued, hopeful look. "Are, are you saying you want to lead with me? Like together?"

"Yeah, fifty-fifty," Clementine nodded. "That way we could share the weight. Maybe then it wouldn't be too much."

"Clementine. . ." Violet stammered, honestly not knowing what to say. She took a breath, and spoke honestly. She definitely needed help. "Yeah, I would like that. I would really, really like that."

"Think everyone else would be okay with it?"

"Yeah, I think so, after everything you've done here. You've come a long way since half of them wanted you kicked to the curb a couple weeks ago," Violet joked.

"Yeah, I guess I have," Clementine agreed. "Thank God."

"No kidding. If it weren't for you we'd be fucked. Like totally."

"Same goes for you. You held everyone together."

Violet smiled softly, looking away now. "Yeah, I know." 

Violet felt a sudden warmness on her left hand, blushing a bit when she realized Clementine had taken it in hers. She looked around, and was relieved to see no one was watching. All the attention her and Minnie got made her so uncomfortable, it was one of the few things she didn't miss about it.

"Clementine, I—," Violet started, trying her best to think of something charming or romantic to say, but nothing came. It seemed she could only think of clever responses when she was trying to be snide or sarcastic. "Shit, I should be better at this by now," Violet admitted with a frustrated sigh. Finally, she decided to just go with something simple and honest. She turned to Clementine. "I'm really glad you're here. With me."

Clementine beamed, answering with a nod and a sincere smile.

"Me too."


 

And each and everyday, will lead into tomorrow

Tomorrow brings one less day without you

So don't wait up just leave the light on

'Cause all the roads that I might take

Will all one day lead back to you

And like the angel you are

You laugh, creating a lightness in my chest

Your eyes they penetrate me

Never cease to amaze me

And that's when I got up and left

That's when I got up and left

Rise Against - Like the Angel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfeHzVBnEyI

Chapter Text

It had been a week since Violet agreed to let Clementine be her co-leader, and as expected, she didn't meet much resistance from the rest of the group. Even though she was new, it was obvious she was able to be trusted, and surprisingly, Violet and Clementine made a great team. Running the community was a tough job for sure, but seeing the fruits of her labor made it worth it. For the first time since Clementine got there, nothing was going wrong. Nothing major anyway. They now had a greenhouse to grow more food, and without Marlon around, they were free to venture further out for more hunting opportunities, albeit very cautiously. For the moment, things were going as well as anyone could ask for. Clementine was a bit worried the dual responsibility might put a strain on her relationship with Violet, in case they disagreed on a decision, but so far it had been fine. In fact, they had only grown closer. Clementine's life had been more worry free than it had been for as long as she could remember, since before society collapsed even. For once, she felt like she had control of her life. It definitely wasn't easy, trying to keep the school up and running, it was a life far less frightening than running from place to place, always looking over her shoulder, always fearing for her and AJ's life. Compared to that, this was like Heaven. Life was challenging, but manageable. Not quite simple, but more simple she ever imagined it would be.

One afternoon Clementine decided to check on Violet before her shift on lookout duty, to see if everything was going okay. She opened the door, immediately seeing Violet not at the desk, but just hanging around in the large window overlooking the yard, her still bandaged foot dangling in the air, swinging gently back and forth.

"Hey, Vi," Clementine said, stepping into the room.

Violet turned to see her girlfriend standing in the doorway. "Oh, hey Clem. Sorry, I was just spacing out," Violet said with a warm smile, or warm for her anyway.

Clementine smiled back. It was nice to see Violet looking so carefree. It sure was a far cry from the stressed out, exhausted girl she had to help down the stairs a week ago.

"It's almost time for my shift. Just wanted to check in. Everything alright?"

"Yeah, I think so," Violet replied, trying to think. "Oh, Aasim said he's been noticing more walkers around than usual, so do you think you could let me know if you notice that too?"

"Yeah, of course. Why do you think there's suddenly more?"

"I dunno, seems like there's either none at all or a shitload. Sometimes, when there's a lot at once, it makes me think something happened, you know? Something that made a lot of people die, not far from here. It's probably nothing, but just keep a lookout, okay?"

"Definitely," Clementine nodded. "Anything else?"

"Nope, think that's it."

"So . . . we still on for tonight?" Clementine asked.

Violet giggled, "What? You think I'm gonna stand you up or something? Come on."

"You better not," Clementine shot back playfully.

Violet shook her head with a smile, "Get out of here Clem. I'll see you tonight," Violet said, turning back to the window.

Clementine left Violet now, heading towards the yard. She walked through the front doors, exiting the school and heading down the stairs, when something peculiar caught the corner of her eye. Mitch was standing in the cemetery, hovering over the stone Ruby had placed for Ms. Martin. Clementine thought it was odd for Mitch of all people to be visiting that grave, considering he had said they should have just burned her instead of burying her. She decided to see what was going on.

"Hey, Mitch," Clementine said a little hesitantly, approaching the older boy. "What're you doing here?'

Mitch turned to look at her, but didn't greet her back, turning away again.

"Uh, okay. I guess I'll just leave you alone, then," Clementine said, backing away.

"You know," Mitch started, catching Clementine a bit off guard. "If someone told me a month ago this place was gonna be run by Violet and her new girlfriend, I woulda said that's the worst fuckin' idea ever."

"Does being led by girls bother you?" Clementine asked suspiciously, crossing her arms.

"No, it's just a crazy fucking thought. Violet replace Marlon? No way. She's about as charismatic as a dead squirrel, or I thought so anyway, but she really stepped up. You both did. You're doin' a good job," he admitted.

Clementine looked at him strangely, getting a little concerned. "Are you feeling alright Mitch? You're acting weird."

"Yeah, just felt like being honest. And uh, I'm sorry for being such a dick at the greenhouse a few weeks ago. I know Ms. Martin meant a lot to everyone."

"So that's why you're here. You feel bad."

"Kinda, but I was just sick of feeling sad all the time. The twins, then Brody and Marlon, now Omar. We have to gather around and remember them, say shit we liked about them, like it's still the old days, back when someone dying was a big deal."

"It's still a big deal," Clementine said back, still listening.

"Not nearly as much. We've all seen people die, you probably more than anyone. You didn't let yourself fall apart over every one, did you?" Mitch asked, turning to her.

"Well, no," Clementine said honestly.

"When shit's like this, you can't get all caught up in being sad and thinking of what people meant to you, otherwise you'll never see what's in front of you. You'll get distracted, and end up just like them. It's better to just get it over with. When I die, I don't want a funeral. I just want people to get on with their lives. You make sure to tell everyone that if when I go, alright?"

"Jesus, Mitch. You . . . you don't mean that." Clementine said, a little disturbed.

"Yeah, I do," Mitch said, breaking away from her now. "I'll see ya later Clementine."

Clementine just stood there for a moment, going over in her head what just happened. It was easily the most candid conversation she ever had with Mitch, and also the most worrying. He was talking like he thought he was going to die soon, like it didn't even matter. But why now? When things are going so well? People tend to do crazy things when they start talking like that. She'd have to talk to Violet about this.

"Clem!" came Aasim's irritated voice in the distance. "Where the hell are you? It's your shift!"

"Oh shit!" Clementine cursed, turning to run out of the graveyard.


 

Clementine had been on watch for over an hour now, and soon someone would come to replace her. Violet was right, she was noticing more walkers than usual. She'd have to talk to her about that too. She heard coming up the ladder, most likely Willy, who would be relieving her.

"Hey Clem, how's it going?" Willy asked as his head poked out, climbing onto the platform with her.

"Okay, I guess. More walkers than usual. A little worrying," Clementine said, still looking through the binoculars.

"We can handle walkers. Don't get too worked up over it."

"Yeah, alright," Clementine said. She's about to hand the binoculars over to Willy, but sees something at the last moment. At first she thought it was just a walker. Then she took a closer look. "Hey, hey I think I see someone. A person!"

"The raiders again?" Willy asked, suddenly nervous.

"No, no I don't think so. It's a kid. She's heading this way."

"No way, let me see," Willy said, holding up his hand.

Clementine gave him the binoculars so he could take a look for himself. Willy raised them up to his eyes, looking out into the woods. A few seconds later he lowered them again, a baffled expression on his face.

"No way. No fuckin' way," he said, looking again at the red-headed girl, getting closer and closer.

"What? What is it?" Clementine asked, confused.

"It's, it's Minnie! It's fuckin' Minnie!"

"What?" Clementine exclaimed, an incredulous look on her face.

"We gotta tell everyone!"

Willy turned in the direction of the courtyard, racing down the ladder. Clementine just stood there for a moment, shaking, but quickly followed.

"Guys! Minnie's back! Minnie's back!" Willy shouted as he ran into the center of the yard, quickly grabbing everyone's attention that was there.

"What did you just say?" Mitch asked, rising from the nearby picnic table.

"What? Are you sure?" Ruby demanded, wearing an astounded look.

"Positive! We gotta go get her!"

Violet, who was still hanging in the open window, noticed the commotion going on in the yard. She couldn't quite make out what they were all going on about though.

"Hey!" she yelled out, getting their attention. "What's going on?"

"Violet! Minnie's here! She's back!"

Violet froze. Her foot stopped swinging, her face suddenly going blank. She quickly found her heart beating three times as fast, her mind turning to mush. She looked on as the group of kids below raced out of the gate to see the missing twin, suddenly shaking uncontrollably. The next second Violet was already out of the office, running down the hall like Hell was chasing her, the pain in her foot not slowing her down even a little.

Minnie was an exhausted, drained mess. Like she had walked through a war to get here, which she very likely did. Her clothes were torn, her broken arm in a make shift sling from her own shirt. She limped closer and closer, dragging her injured left leg like a walker. She looked like she'd pass out at any second, but she was so close now. She couldn't stop.

"Minnie! Minnie!" came the shouts of the kids as they ran up to greet their long lost friend, Clementine included.

When she laid eyes on the approaching group, she stopped suddenly, knowing she had made it. A slight smile appeared on her muddied face, and then she collapsed.

"Minnie!"

Aasim got there first, kneeling down in front of the broken girl.

"Jesus, she's in bad shape. Real bad shape."

"Let me see!" Ruby said, coming to the opposite side of her. She examined her injuries as best she could.

"It's serious, maybe life threatening. She's probably dehydrated and starved too."

"Come on, let's get her inside," Clementine proposed, kneeling by her feet. "Aasim, help me lift her."

"Shit, alright," Aasim agreed, grabbing her under her shoulders.

That's when Violet burst from the gate, sprinting towards her friends at a full sprint. She had to see this for herself.

"Violet!" Clementine exclaimed, thinking of her foot. "You shouldn't be running like that!"

But Violet wasn't listening. She came right up to them, getting a look at the unconscious Minnie.

"Oh my God," Violet shook her head, holding back tears. "It's just Minnie? No Sophie?" she demanded from the others, walking alongside them.

"No, Sophie's not here Vi," said Willy, hating to disappoint her. "Sorry."

Violet looked to Minnie now, her eyes locked on her face. It was definitely her, yet she was barely recognizable.

"God Minnie, what happened to you?"

The group brought Minnie through the gates, straight up the stairs and into the school, where Ruby could try to treat her injuries.

"Mitch, Willy, make yourselves useful, go find Tenn. Right now!" Violet almost screamed, barely able to contain herself.

Mitch and Willy did as they were told, splitting up to search the whole school for Minnie's brother.

"I can't believe this is happening," Violet said, suffering from a shortness of breath. She was thrilled as she was worried. If she was being honest, she didn't know how to feel. Happy? Worried? Relieved? Terrified? It was a mix of every emotion at once.

Clementine and Aasim placed Minnie down in one of the empty bedrooms of the school. Ruby went over her injuries as Clementine walked over to Violet, who looked like she was about to faint herself.

"Violet, you gotta sit down. Please. You're starting to worry me."

Violet looked to Clementine, then to Ruby, then back to Minnie. "Yeah, yeah ok," Violet said, taking a seat in a nearby chair. She held her hand to her face, beads of sweat dripping down.

Clementine stood beside her, trying to calm her distressed girlfriend.

"God, she's a train wreck," Ruby said as she looked her over again. "Her arm's broken, she looks like she hasn't eaten for days, she's got an infected gunshot wound on her leg, and God knows what else."

"Just help her!" yelled Violet.

"I'm trying!"

"Violet, you shouldn't be here right now," Aasim said. "We should let Ruby work."

"Aasim's right Violet," Clementine agreed. "Let's go to the office for now, ok? We can check on her later."

Violet looked helplessly at the wounded Minnie, not wanting to leave her. They were right though, her being there right now wasn't helping herself or Minnie.

"Okay, okay," Violet reluctantly agreed, letting Clementine help her out of the room.

As Violet and Clementine made their way to the office, they were met in the hall by AJ.

"Clem, what's going on?"

"One of Tenn's sisters showed up," she said quickly.

"Really? That's great!"

"Yeah, kinda. She's all messed up though AJ. Why don't you go see if you can help Ruby? She might need some things," Clementine said, noticing Violet was continuing onwards.

"Gotcha," AJ nodded, running over to the room Violet and Clementine had just left.

Clementine joined Violet in the office, watching as her girlfriend slumped down in Marlon's old chair, suddenly looking emotionally drained once more.

"I can't believe she's back. God, this scares the shit out of me. We can't let her die. Not now," Violet rambled, trying to get a grip.

"But how? How is she back? How do you think she escaped?" Clementine asked, sitting in a nearby chair.

Then Clementine thought of something else. Something very concerning.

"What if they come looking for her?"

"We'll worry about that later," Violet said. "She can tell us all about it after she wakes up, hopefully where Sophie is too."

Clementine looked down, not sure how to bring up what was on her mind. A few moments passed in a rather tense silence, both of them waiting for someone to come in with an update on Minnie.

"Violet," Clementine began, trying to say what was concerning her.

"Yeah?"

"Minnie . . . was your girlfriend, right?"

Violet looked at Clementine blankly, then squinted a bit in irritation when she realized what Clementine was insinuating. "Jesus Christ Clementine, is that seriously what you're thinking about right now?" Violet asked with a disbelieving glare. "She's my friend! I haven't seen her in a year! I thought she was dead! She could still die! Our relationship isn't the fucking concern here!"

Clementine recoiled as if hurt. She hung her head, now feeling awful for thinking of something like that at a time like this.

"I'm sorry," she said simply, not knowing what else to say.

Violet shook her head, leaning back in the chair again. "Whatever," she said, still annoyed.

Another few tense moments passed, only now they were uncomfortable and awkward too. Finally, the office door opened, revealing a disheveled looking Ruby. Clementine and Violet both spun around, waiting for her to say something.

"Well," Ruby began, still trying to gather herself. "She's gonna live. I'm pretty sure she's gonna live."

"Oh thank God," Violet said, breathing a deep sigh of a relief.

"She was awake for a bit, but she's asleep now. She'll probably be asleep for a while."

"She can sleep as long as she wants," Violet said, "Thanks Ruby, I'm sorry I yelled at you."

"Don't worry about it," Ruby said, turning to leave.

When they were alone once more, Clementine had no idea what to do. Her entire day had been thrown out of order.

"So, what should we do now?"

"Just keep going, I guess. Shit still needs to get done."

Clementine was pretty curious if Violet still wanted to hang out later, but after making her mad before, she didn't want to bother bringing it up. Honestly, she wasn't sure where her relationship stood at this point, but she'd have to figure that out later. She wasn't bothering Violet with it now.

"I'm gonna go find AJ," Clementine said, getting up from her seat.

"Alright," Violet acknowledged, getting up from her chair as well.

Clementine headed towards the doorway.

"Wait," Violet said, stopping her.

Clementine turned, worried she was still mad about before.

"I don't want you to think I'm pissed with you, because I'm not. Well, a little, but I'll get over it," Violet admitted. "That's just, that's not what's important right now. Right now what's important is making sure Minnie makes it through this."

"Yeah, you're right," Clementine agreed, turning to leave again.

"I'll see you tonight, okay?" Violet asked, a noticeable amount of worry in her voice, as if making sure Clementine was still interested.

Clementine stopped once more, hiding a relieved smile.

"Definitely."

Chapter Text

The next day Minnie still hadn't woken up, and everyone was getting worried, especially Violet. As long as Minnie's fate was unclear, Violet found it difficult to concentrate on anything else. Almost every hour she or someone else would check up on her, just to leave disappointed. Tennessee was in the room with her almost all day round, wanting to be there when she woke up. If she woke up. The whole time Violet was obsessed, Clementine fought petty feelings from her mind. All she could hope for was for this to be over as soon as possible.

The end of the day was nearing, and Violet wanted to visit Minnie one last time before heading to bed. She opened the door, not surprised to see Tennessee sitting in a chair in front of the bed his sister was sleeping in, working on another drawing of his.

"Hey Tenn, you gonna stay here all night again?" Violet asked, a solemn, tired tone in her voice.

Tennessee seemed to have the utmost confidence Sophie would wake up and be fine. Violet wished she shared that confidence. 

"Yeah, I don't want to leave her. I want me to be the first thing she sees when she wakes up, so she knows everything's alright," he said, looking up from his work.

Violet smiled. Tennessee's innocent optimism always managed to lighten all but her darkest days.

"What're you drawing? Something with Minnie in it?" she asked, quite curious.

Tennessee nodded, "I had that drawing with Minnie and Sophie in a better place because Marlon told me they died, but that ended up being a lie. So now I have to make a new one."

"What is it?" Violet asked again, trying to get a better look.

"It's all of us, here. At Ericson's. See? There's you, and Minnie, Clementine, and AJ," Tennessee said, pointing to each simple, juvenilely drawn figure. "I haven't gotten to the others yet. I'm leaving a spot for Sophie, if we find her," he finished, looking a little dampened now that he was thinking of his still missing sister.

Violet wanted nothing more at that moment to be able to tell Tennessee both his sisters would be okay, but she couldn't lie to him. Minnie showing up at their gates like this was a miracle, and she had arrived in a near death state. If Minnie looked like this, there wasn't much of a chance Sophie was still alive, as much as it pained her to admit it. She could hope, but that was all.

"You're a great brother Tenn," Violet said, sitting down on other bed across from Minnie's. "I wish any of my siblings were as cool as you."

Tennessee stopped now, looking back from his chair towards Violet. "I always imagined you were an only kid. You never told me you had brothers and sisters."

"Just sisters. Older ones. A bunch."

Tennessee looked confused. "Why are you just mentioning them now?"

"Because they weren't worth mentioning," Violet admitted, sounding a little cold.

"Why not?"

Violet hesitated. "Never mind, don't worry about it. It's not important," she said, not wanting to talk about it.

"Come on Violet," Tennessee urged, wanting to learn more about his friend. "What are you afraid of?"

Violet sighed. She had trapped herself in a corner by bringing them up. "Alright, but it's not a happy story. We weren't close like you and your sisters, Tenn. I didn't like them, they didn't like me. I fought with them all the time, even though they were all older."

"Like, argued? Or fought fought?"

"Both. Mom and Dad always took their side. Mostly the reason I got sent here. I wasn't a perfect little girl like my sisters were. That's what my parents wanted, perfect little girls," Violet scowled, lying down on the bed now, staring aimlessly at the ceiling. "Assholes."

"Your parents or your sisters?"

"Both. If there's one thing good that came from all this shit, it's that I never have to see any of them again. None of them ever liked me."

"I., I don't think that's true," Tennessee said, not liking the idea of a family being so cruel to one of its own.

"You didn't know my family Tenn. They were . . . traditional," Violet fumbled a bit, trying to think of a good way to put it. "Close-minded dicks," she eventually came up with, which sounded much better to her. "If they could see me now, who I ended up becoming? They would hate me."

"You mean because you liked girls? Like my sister?" Tennessee asked directly.

Violet flinched, as she wasn't even sure Tennessee would even understand what she was hinting at, let alone say it so candidly. It sure put her on the spot. Violet didn't respond at first.

"Yeah," she eventually said, sighing deeply. "I don't want to talk about this anymore."

"Yeah, you've said enough," Tennessee agreed, letting her drop the subject.

A few moments passed in silence, other than the sound of the wind outside and Tennessee's pencil sketchings. Violet was thinking about leaving soon, she still had to say goodnight to Clementine before she headed to bed. She wasn't looking forward to it, because she knew she wouldn't sleep well with Minnie's well-being weighing on her mind.

That's when they heard a low, pained groan, quickly followed by the creaking sound of someone moving on a bed. Tennessee and Violet looked up to see Minnie's head lift from her pillow, weakly turning back and forth.

"Minnie!" Tennessee nearly shouted, jumping from his chair.

"Holy shit," Violet gasped, doing the same from the bed.

Minnie turned towards the voices, her eyes lighting up when they fell on Tennessee and Violet.

"Tenn, Vi, thank God," she said, trying to sit up.

"Careful Minnie," Violet said, trying her best to remain calm. "Don't stress yourself, you're in pretty rough shape."

"Yeah, trust me, I know," Minnie said, managing a smile.

"Minnie, I hate to ask you this right now, but I've got to know. Sophie wasn't with you when you showed up, do you have any idea what happened to her?' Violet asked, preparing herself for the worst.

Minnie's smile dropped, her eyes drifting away, and Violet knew her worst fears had been confirmed.

"I'm sorry. I . . . I lost her."

Violet clenched her fists as tight as she could, feeling tears coming on as she tried to bear with the news. She had expected it, prepared for it, and it still hurt like hell. She had already mourned Sophie once, now she had to do it all over again.

"When?" she managed to ask weakly, half sobbing.

"Months ago now. More than half a year, I think. I'm not sure. It's all been an awful blur. Like the worst nightmare ever," Minnie said honestly, knowing she would never be the same.

"You lost her? As in, you lost track of her?" Tennessee asked, still trying to hold on to some hope.

Minnie shook her head, "I'm sorry Tenn, I really am. She's gone."

Tennessee hung his head, starting to cry. Minnie reached out with her good arm, bringing him close.

"Well, at least now we know for sure," Violet told herself, brushing her tears from her eyes, but more were on the way.

They all took a few minutes, letting Sophie's fate sink in. Eventually, Tennessee's sobs began to slow, and Minnie decided she needed to say something to lighten the mood.

"It's so great to see you both again, I never thought it would happen after—," Minnie stopped suddenly, thinking of something important. "Oh crap. Guys, listen, there's something you need to know. About Marlon. He—."

"Gave you to the raiders," Violet finished her sentence for her, already pissed off again just thinking about. "Yeah, we know."

"Y-you know? Well, where is he?" Minnie asked, looking fearful.

"He's dead."

"Dead?" Minnie repeated, almost disbelievingly. "How? What happened?"

"That's a really long story," Violet said. "Don't worry about it for now. Just know that Marlon's not a problem anymore. You're safe."

"W-what about Brody?" Minnie asked.

"She's dead too. Marlon murdered her when she tried to tell Clementine the truth," Violet explained.

Minnie looked at her with a confused face. "Who's Clementine?"

"Uh," Violet stumbled, feeling stupid. "She's . . . someone new. She showed up a few weeks ago. We'll talk about her later. You just try to relax, okay?"

Minnie just stared at her, not knowing what to say. "God, Marlon and Brody? They're both dead? That's so messed up," she said, leaning back against her pillow.

"Marlon deserved it after what he did to you, and your sister, and Brody," Violet said back, not wanting her to feel sad for Marlon, the coward who caused her so much pain, but Minnie was always kind-hearted.

"You're sad for Brody, but not Marlon? Why? She went along with it. She helped him do it. She was there when he gave us away. Her and Marlon."

"Wait, what?" Violet gaped, not wanting to believe it. "But, but Brody told Clementine Marlon did it, then intimidated her into staying quiet. She was, she was afraid for her life!"

"Then she lied. She was there," Minnie said honestly, pained just thinking about it again. "They told us to come hunting with them, but it was just a trick so they could hand us over. It's true."

Violet looked crushed. Marlon betraying them was bad enough, but Brody? Had she lied to try to save herself? Violet didn't want to believe it. She mourned for Brody, all while putting all the blame on Marlon. Is that why Marlon killed her? Not because she was telling the truth, but because she tried to pin it all on him?

"Fuck," Violet cursed, a great anger boiling up inside her.

For the longest time Violet hated Brody for what happened to the twins, back when she thought they died. Once Clementine pointed it out, she actually felt bad about it. Terrible even. Now? Now she hated her more than ever. It really was her fault, and Marlon's. To think she actually felt sorry for her. Dealing with Sophie's death was stressful enough, but with this piled on top of it? Friends lying to friends, giving each other away to save themselves, stabbing one another in the back? It was just too much for Violet to bear. Then, like anything else that's been pulled on and bent one too many times, Violet broke.

"Fuck! That fucking, lying, backstabbing cunt!" Violet screamed, unable to control herself for one more second.

"Violet!" Minnie recoiled with fright, still holding her brother against her body.

The heartbroken Violet spun around, storming out of the room in a fury.

"Violet? Wait! Where're you going?" came Minnie's desperate voice as she called out to her.

Violet was on the warpath now. She only wished Brody and Marlon were still both alive, just so she could kill them again herself. She didn't even think about what she was doing, or whether or not it was a good idea, which it definitely wasn't. Her heart had taken over. She burst out from the school's front doors.

"Violet?" said the startled Mitch, standing just outside. He quickly noticed by her tears streaming down her face she was totally distraught. "What's going on?"

Violet said nothing, not even telling him about Minnie or Sophie as she brushed past him, turning towards the cemetery. Mitch followed after her. On the way, Violet nearly ran right into Ruby, who was just coming back from visiting Omar's grave. Now they were both following her, eager to know what was happening.

"Hey! Don't ignore us, what's wrong?" Ruby asked, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Neither of them would ever forget what they were about to see.

When Violet reached the cemetery, she made a bee line straight for Brody's grave. Without hesitating, she reached down, tore Brody's marker from the ground, and smashed it against the stone wall with a violent scream. And again, and again, and again, until it snapped in two.

"Jesus Christ! Violet! What the fuck?" Mitch exclaimed, outraged and confused.

"Oh my God," Ruby gasped, covering her mouth with her hands. "Violet! Stop!"

Mitch marched up to Violet, determined to stop this madness. Then Violet turned to Marlon's grave, trying to rip it from the ground as well.

"That's enough!" Mitch yelled, grabbing her from behind and pulling her away.

"Let me go!" Violet demanded, struggling in Mitch's powerful grasp. "You don't understand!"

"So then fucking tell us what's going on!" Mitch yelled back, throwing Violet to the ground behind him.

Violet hit the ground hard, getting the wind knocked out of her.

"Start explaining, now." Mitch demanded.

"Why would you do that to Brody's grave?" Ruby asked, confused and hurt. "I thought you were over all that shit!"

"It's all a fuckin' lie! More fucking lies!" Violet screamed, standing up.

By now the commotion had attracted both Louis and Clementine. Clementine had been on watch with AJ, but after she heard the screaming, she let AJ take over for a bit while she came to see what was going on.

"Minnie just woke up. She told me everything. About Marlon giving her and Sophie up to the raiders! Brody lied! Minnie said she was in on it the whole fucking time! Marlon killed her because she was trying to blame it all on him!"

"What? Seriously?" Mitch asked, his demeanor changing from pissed to disheartened in a second flat.

"Minnie's awake?" exclaimed Ruby.

"Yeah, Minnie's awake," Violet panted, finally coming down a bit from her heartbroken outburst, but she was still mad as Hell.

"Violet, is that seriously true?" Louis asked, hearing everything. "About Brody?"

"Yeah, can you fucking believe it? To think I mourned that bitch."

"But, but she told me that as she was dying!" Clementine said, just as confused. "Why would she lie?"

"I don't know," Violet said, still catching her breath. "All I know is I'm sick of all these fucking lies! I can't take it anymore!"

Violet's eyes went back to Marlon's grave, still wanting nothing more than to tear it from the earth. She took a step towards it, but Mitch pushed her back hard.

"Stop!"

"But you heard what I said!"

"I don't fuckin' care! You're not helping shit! You're just scaring everyone Violet!"

Violet stopped then, turning to look at the faces of everyone present. Mitch, Clementine, Ruby, Louis, as well as Aasim and Willy, who had shown up not long ago, all with disturbed or distressed stares. Violet had scared them all to death with her violent reaction. None of them had seen that explosive side of her before. When Mitch becomes the voice of reason, you know you've gone too far.

"Fuck," Violet said, realizing he was right.

"Someone wanna tell us what the hell is going on?" Aasim asked, stepping forward.

"We should tell them," Clementine said to Violet. "You should tell them. Calmly."

Violet nodded, now feeling like a total lunatic. "Yeah, you're right."

Violet managed to pull herself together enough to explain to Aasim and Willy what Minnie had told her, about Brody's part in the betrayal they all suffered, hoping it would at least explain her reaction. When Violet finished, they both looked dispirited and hurt, just as she did.

"You just exploded and left Minnie in the room? You must have scared the crap out of her," Willy said.

"Yeah, probably," Violet admitted, feeling awful about that as well.

"Shit, what a mess," Aasim scowled, turning away. "I'm gonna go see Minnie."

"I'm coming too, to see if she needs anything," Ruby said, following him.

"Wait, don't say anything about it to her," Violet called out. "I don't wanna upset her right now."

"You mean like you did when you freaked the fuck out?" Aasim shot back as he walked away, still irritated.

Violet hung her head, "Yeah, like that," she mumbled, feeling ashamed. She still hated Marlon and Brody both, but her reaction had just made everything worse.

"I still can't believe it," Clementine said, looking at what was left of Brody's grave marker. She didn't know what to believe anymore.

"Should we . . . fix it?" Louis proposed, not knowing what else to do.

"No!" Violet said, standing by her opinion, if not her reaction. "She doesn't deserve it! Neither of them do, but I should have told you first, instead of storming out here like a psycho and smashing shit," Violet said, shaking her head. She took a minute to figure out what to say next. "We'll put it to a vote, alright? That's how we'll decide this."

"Does this really mean that much to you Violet?" asked Mitch.

"Yeah, it does. They're traitors. Traitors don't get celebrated."

"If you think we're gonna do something like dig their bodies up and throw them away, you're insane," Louis stated, thinking of his history with Marlon again, not to mention how disgusting that would be.

"I know he was Louis, but you know what he's done," Violet said, defending herself.

Both Louis and Violet were being driven by their personal attachments, Violet to Minnie, and Louis to Marlon.

"Besides, I didn't mean that. I just meant we should take the markers down," Violet made clear. "We shouldn't be honoring them Louis. I know you've got history with Marlon, but he was a coward, and a liar. He gave Minnie and Sophie away to fucking raiders! He said to our faces that he'd do it again to any of us! That means you too!"

"Violet, that's enough," Clementine said, realizing Louis was getting upset and angry.

"Marlon was a liar and a murderer Louis!" Violet kept going, trying to appeal to Louis as earnestly as she could, but everything she stopped herself from saying before was now coming out. "He wasn't really your friend! You didn't meant shit to him! He'd give you up in a second if it meant saving himself!"

"Violet!" yelled Clementine, knowing that was going too far.

Then Louis shocked everyone, suddenly striking Violet in the face with a hard punch. Violet didn't see it coming, stumbling back, holding her now bleeding mouth. She never expected that kind of reaction from Louis, but everyone has a breaking point, and she just found his. Clementine looked to Louis in disbelief, feeling she had lost all control of the situation. Luckily, Violet didn't retaliate, seemingly accepting the blow. Louis looked just as shocked as any of them, immediately showing a look of regret.

"Wow," Mitch said, never imagining he'd see that from Louis.

"Fuck, I didn't mean to do that," Louis said, realizing maybe he hadn't totally come to terms with himself after all.

"No, no I get it," Violet admitted, thinking of her own reaction earlier. "That was too much, I'm sorry."

Louis took a second, but nodded, apparently accepting her apology.

"Listen, we can talk about this shit later, let's just focus on Minnie for now," Violet proposed. "Make sure she's okay. Plus, she should get a say in this too."

"Yeah, sounds good," Louis agreed, at this point just wanting this situation defused.

Clementine sighed in relief. That was rough, but at least it didn't get totally out of control. She was afraid Louis and Violet were about to get into a fist fight for a minute. They left the now damaged graveyard together. Violet went back into the school, feeling the need to apologize to Minnie next. Clementine still had her watch to complete, and she didn't want to leave AJ alone any longer, despite that he could mostly take care of himself. There would be time later to discuss and vote, but for now there had been more than enough excitement for one day.

Chapter Text

Violet had made her way back to Minnie's new room, eager to apologize for storming out like that. No one had ever seen her that angry before, and truth be told, she had never seen herself that angry before. She lost control, and she couldn't let it happen again, especially now that she was the leader. She stopped in front of the room for a second, a little hesitant to show her face to Minnie after that outburst. After taking a breath, she gently opened the door to see Aasim and Ruby, who had come to see the remaining twin for themselves. When Violet entered the room, all eyes instantly turned to her. She went still, suddenly feeling like finding a dark corner to sulk in like so many times before. She turned her head away from the silent stares in shame, feeling her voice caught in her throat.

"Violet, Aasim and Ruby told me what you did to Brody's grave," Minnie said, still in shock, frankly. "You didn't have to do that. You shouldn't have done that," she said honestly, a concerned look in her eye. "I've never seen you like that before. You really scared me."

"I know, I'm really sorry," Violet said, managing to turn and face them. "I just get so mad about shit sometimes. I'm usually able to deal with it, but this is just so fucked up. I snapped, and it wasn't cool. I'm sorry," Violet tried her best to apologize, finding it hard as ever to talk about her feelings.

"Did you get it out of your system at least?" Aasim asked.

"Yeah, mostly," Violet replied. "I'm still not over it, but we can talk about that later. I'm cool now."

It was at that point Aasim noticed Violet's bleeding, now swollen lip. "Violet, you're bleeding. What happened there?"

"Oh," Violet remembered, wiping the blood off her face with her finger. "I started talking shit about Marlon to Louis and I . . . I went too far. He punched me in the face."

"Oh my God," Minnie said, shaking her head.

"Wow, didn't think he had it in him. You must have said some really cruel shit to piss him off that much," said Aasim, a little amazed.

"Yeah, it was pretty bad," Violet admitted, rubbing her arm again out of habit. "I still hate Marlon's guts, but I shouldn't have said that crap to Louis, and speaking of shit I regret," she turned to Minnie now, "I feel awful about making you worry about me like that Minnie, especially when you're like this."

Minnie breathed deeply, relieved Violet seemed to be under control again at least. "Just promise me you won't do that again, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah for sure," Violet agreed, wanting more than anyone for that to never happen ever again. Then she noticed that Tennessee was missing. "Wait, where's Tenn?" she asked, concerned for the young boy. After all, he just learned of his sister's death.

"He wanted to be alone for a while," Minnie said with a sigh. "You know how he is."

"Yeah," Violet nodded, "Okay. Did uh, did you tell them about Sophie?" Violet asked, looking to Ruby and Aasim.

"We, we know," Aasim said solemnly. "I already figured she wasn't coming back."

Violet's eyes went to Ruby, who had been silent the whole time. She looked pretty dejected, probably still taking in Sophie's demise.

Aasim turned to Minnie now, who he still had more questions for. "How did you manage to escape the raiders anyway? You think they'll come looking for you?"

"I don't think so. I escaped during an attack by another group. It was pretty bad. Honestly, I'm not sure how many of the raiders are left. I don't think they'd waste time looking for me."

"Well, that's fucking great news," Violet said, "The less of those child-snatching assholes there are the better."

"Still, we should keep an eye out for those bastards, just in case," Ruby said, finally speaking up.

"Along with anyone that might take their place. There's no shortage of assholes in the world," Aasim pointed out.

"That's for sure," Violet agreed. "Guys, I think we should let Minnie get some rest, ok?"

"Yeah, alright. We need to tell the others about Sophie. Minnie shouldn't have to keep doing it," Aasim replied.

"Do you need anything else Minnie? Before we leave?" Ruby asked, naturally attentive.

"Actually, I'm still really hungry," Minnie said, having already eaten the small amount of food Ruby gave to her when she came in. "Do you think Omar would mind making something for me?"

"Oh crap," Aasim recoiled.

Violet and Ruby both flinched as well, as they had completely forgotten to mention Omar's death in the raider attack.

"What? What's wrong? Not enough food?" Minnie asked, totally oblivious.

"Minnie . . ." Violet started, getting really exhausted of all these difficult situations. Violet awkwardly struggled to find the best way to put it, but there was no good way.

Fortunately, Violet's sad eyes said everything for her, a dispirited expression returning to Minnie's now somber face.

"Oh no," Minnie said upon her revelation, breaking eye contact from Violet to look to Aasim and Ruby.

They offered no response as they looked away, wearing saddened, pained faces.

"Omar is dead?" Minnie weakly asked, finally saying the words.

"He died when the raiders attacked the school. They shot him. I'm sorry Minnie," Violet managed to say, as emphatically as she could muster.

"Jesus," Minnie whimpered, turning away from all of them to wallow in her grief. Head hung low, she sobbed steadily, everyone allowing her a few minutes while she took the news in.

Violet cringed at the sight of Minnie upset. She was such a delicate soul, nothing like Clementine really, and it always killed Violet to watch her cry. They were just about to leave her alone for the night, and now they had been forced to drop a bomb on her. After a few agonizingly uncomfortable moments, Minnie made a tight fist, her hand starting to shake.

"Those fucking scum," she suddenly said.

Violet was taken aback, for she had never known Minnie to swear. She didn't say anything though. She supposed it was understandable spending a whole year in Hell could take its toll on someone's innocence, or even kill it completely.

"Is there anyone else that's dead that I should know about?" she finally asked, turning to them once more. "Mitch? Willy?"

"No, that's it. Everyone else is okay," Violet assured her.

Minnie took a deep breath, and was silent for a good thirty seconds more.

"I want a moment alone with Violet."

Violet's heart sank. She could already tell what Minnie wanted to talk about. Picking up where they left off. Violet wasn't ready for it at all. She had been dreading this conversation like a forced social affair. Violet had no idea how she was going to tell Minnie about Clementine, her new girlfriend. Aasim saw the desperation in her face, and always the quick thinker, came to Violet's aid, but he would have to make up a lie.

"Violet has the next watch shift, and it's gonna be in a few minutes. After that, it'll be pretty late," said Aasim.

Violet shot a surprised, but grateful look to Aasim. Ruby looked to Aasim as well, but she looked almost impressed.

"Oh," Minnie said, looking disappointed.

"We can talk tomorrow, I promise," Violet assured her with a smile.

"Alright, I really need to talk to you Vi," Minnie said, before turning to Ruby. "I could still really use something to eat Ruby."

"Yeah, of course. I'll make something up," Ruby nodded, turning out of the room, thankful to escape the awkward direction the conversation had taken.

"Well, we should go. I'll come see you tomorrow Minnie, okay?" said Violet, her heart still beating far fast than the comfortable rate.

"Okay, don't forget. Bye Vi, bye Aasim," Minnie said as the two swiftly exited the room.

"Later Minnie," Aasim said goodbye, right before Violet closed the door.

Violet made sure they were a good ten feet away from Minnie's room before turning to Aasim.

"Dude, I owe you big time. Seriously," Violet whispered, just in case.

"Yeah, you do. Listen, your love life is none of my damn business, but you definitely need to figure your shit out here."

Violet nodded. "I already have, I just need some time to get ready for this. Mentally, you know?"

"Really, you know?" Aasim asked, a little surprised. "Who're you going with?"

Violet was hesitant to tell Aasim the decision she had made, but she did owe him, and he was going to find out tomorrow anyway.

"Clementine," Violet finally said.

"Seriously? Wow, that's . . . wow," said Aasim, looking back to Minnie's new room, now even more surprised. "That's gonna be rough."

"Yeah, I know," Violet replied, looking away.

Aasim was curious as to why she had chosen Clementine, but he wasn't going to pry anymore. He was already bordering on invasive.

"Well, I'm gonna leave you to it. Good luck," Aasim said as he broke away.

"Good luck yourself. With Ruby," Violet smiled as he left.

"Yeah, yeah."

Violet was left alone now, but she needed to talk to Clementine right away. As far as she knew, she was still on her lookout shift. She made her way to the school courtyard, relieved to find Clementine was in fact still at her post, but AJ was there too.

"Hey Clementine, can you come down here for a minute?" Violet called up to them.

"What's up?" Clementine asked, looking down to Violet.

"It's . . . personal," Violet said, not wanting to shout about it.

Clementine nodded, telling AJ she'd be back in a moment before coming down the ladder, meeting Violet at the bottom.

"Is this about . . . us?" Clementine asked, getting right to the point.

"Yeah, come on, let's sit down," Violet said, gesturing to a nearby picnic table.

Clementine looked really worried about the conversation they were about to have, and she had good reason to be. Clementine sat next to Violet on the bench, preferring to be closer to her. They were still a couple, at least for the time being. Violet took a deep breath before speaking, even though it was good news for Clementine, it was really big news. She still had to prepare a bit.

"Okay, Clementine, this wasn't an easy decision," Violet started.

"Jesus Christ, just get it over with," Clementine said with a dejected sigh, clearly thinking Violet's decision had gone the other way.

"Okay, I will," Violet said, a snide smile appearing on her face. "I'm not breaking up with you. I wanna stay your girlfriend."

Clementine just stared blankly at Violet for a second, the words so unexpected they didn't make sense at first. Then she recoiled with an audible gasp, suddenly finding herself with a shortness of breath, much to Violet's amusement.

"Holy shit, really?"

"Really."

A relieved, exhilarated smile formed on Clementine's face, giving Violet a hard but playful shove.

"You scared the shit out of me Vi!" Clementine exclaimed, still trying to calm herself down.

"Sorry, I really didn't mean to. But it was pretty funny."

"You are such an asshole!"

"I know," Violet said with a grin. "But let me make it up to you."

Violet leaned in, planting her lips on Clementine's, startling her girlfriend at first, for it was the first time the asocial girl had made the first move. Up until that point it had fallen to Clementine. She had thought about bringing that up to Violet at some point, but now she didn't have to. The kiss was the longest yet, as neither girl wanted to pull away, certainly not Clementine. Violet's swollen lip made it a little uncomfortable, but at that moment Clementine didn't care in the least. Finally, Violet had to lean back, for she was afraid Clementine would just keep on going, and she didn't want to get carried away. She still had more to talk about.

Unbeknownst to either girl, AJ had looked over at some point, catching most of the long lasting kiss. He said nothing, but was clearly puzzled. He had never witnessed that type of affection, and Clementine didn't think AJ was old enough to understand it yet. AJ turned back to the woods to continue the watch, but he would remember this.

Clementine couldn't have felt much happier than she did at that moment, but she couldn't help but be confused. Why had Violet chosen her, someone she had met less than a month ago and had only been dating for a week, over Minnie, the girl she had so much history with? And how was she going to break that news to Minnie? How long had Violet known what her choice would be? Clementine had to pick a question.

"Violet, did you just decide this? Between your rampage and now?"

"No, I spent all last night thinking about Minnie, and I knew that when she woke up I was going to have to make that choice, and I didn't want to put it off. I had my mind made up by morning. It took all night," Violet said.

"Why didn't you just tell me then?"

"'Cause I wanted to make sure she woke up first, because I wanted this to be a happy moment, and I wasn't gonna be happy until I knew she was okay," Violet explained, hoping Clementine would understand.

"Okay," Clementine said, taking that in. "I get that. That makes sense. I'm actually glad, now that you say it."

"Good," Violet smiled, relieved Clementine wasn't mad at her or anything.

"What are you gonna tell Minnie?" Clementine asked, dying to know the answer to that and her next question. "I mean, why me? You have so much history with her, and we've only been dating for a week."

"Honestly, I haven't figured out how to put that yet," Violet admitted, turning away with a worried look in her eye. "I suck at talking about shit Clementine, especially my feelings. I still need some time to figure out how to explain it, especially to Minnie. If I say the wrong thing, it could ruin our friendship forever."

Clementine looked disappointed in Violet's response, but for now she was satisfied in knowing their relationship wasn't ending. "Okay, well I hope you figure that out soon, because I really need to know too," Clementine said with an utmost sincerity.

"I know, and I promised Minnie we'd talk tomorrow, so I really have to focus on this shit. Even if I find a good way to say it, it's still gonna fucking suck though. That reminds me, can you do me a favor?" Violet asked, a very serious look in her eye. "It's important."

"Yeah, sure," Clementine nodded.

"I want you to go and meet Minnie. Introduce yourself. I want her to at least know who you are before I tell her about you and me. You think you can do that?"

"Uh," Clementine fumbled, looking over to AJ. "It's getting late, and I still have a good chunk of my watch left."

"I'll cover for you, don't worry. That's what Minnie thinks I'm doing anyway," Violet said, rising to her feet.

"Well, alright, I guess," Clementine agreed, a bit nervous. "This is gonna be weird."

"Yeah, I know. But you'll be fine, and if me and you come up, just be vague. I'll see ya in a bit," Violet said, leaving Clementine at the table to head over to the makeshift guard tower.

Clementine stayed at the table for a good thirty seconds, thinking of how she was going to do this. "Alright, let's just get this over with," Clementine finally said, rising from the table as well.

Violet climbed the ladder to the lookout, joining Alvin Jr at his side. "Hey AJ, Clementine had to go take care of something important, so I'm gonna finish her lookout for her. You can stay if you want."

"Oh, well, okay. What's she gotta do?" AJ asked, putting down the binoculars.

"Uh, I'm not sure, she just said it was important," Violet lied, unable to come up with an actual reason.

"Do you think she needs help?"

"No, I think she's got it," Violet said, hoping AJ would just go with it.

AJ was silent for a few second, but eventually went back to looking through his binoculars, scanning the forest. Violet let out a quiet sigh.

"Hey Violet?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"What were you and Clem doing down there?"

"We were just talking. I . . . wanted to tell her something important," Violet said, finding a way not to lie.

"But you weren't just talking, I saw you," AJ said, looking to her again. "You were kissing her. Why? She does that to me, but its way quicker, and she says it's because she loves me. Does she love you too?"

Violet's eyes widened, feeling petrified. She had escaped one impossible conversation just to trap herself in another. She had no idea what to say to the child. At all.

"Oh shit."

Chapter Text

Clementine stopped outside Minnie's room, taking a deep breath before entering.

"Okay Clementine, you got this. Just don't be weird. Don't be Violet."

She raised her hand, knocking gently on the door, but loud enough to hear. It had just occurred to her that Minnie might be sleeping, and she definitely didn't want to wake the wounded girl up.

"Ruby? Is that you? You can just come in," came Minnie's soft spoken voice.

"It's not Ruby. My name is Clementine," she said while shaking a bit, still unsure if this was a good idea.

"Clementine? Right, Violet mentioned you. Well, come on in Clementine!"

"Alright, she sounds nice," Clementine said lightly, slowly opening the door. Maybe this would be okay.

Clementine stepped in, closing the door behind her, and finally came face to face with the girl she had heard so much about. Red-haired and fair-skinned, almost what a taller, more petite version of Ruby would look like, but with none of the sass. Pretty as pretty could be.

Minerva.

"Clementine, what a pretty name. What can I do for you?"

Already, Minnie was not how Clementine expected. She expected someone shy or closed in, like Tenn or Violet, but Minerva seemed polite, proper, and warm. At least, so far anyway.

"I just thought I'd stop by and introduce myself, maybe get to know you a little," Clementine said, feeling more confident about this now.

"Oh, well sure!" Minnie said without hesitation. "I mean, why not? It's not like I'm doing anything. Other than lying in bed that is."

"Alright, cool," Clementine nodded, returning her smile. Clementine sat down in the only chair, trying to make herself comfortable.

"So, where are you from Clementine?"

"Georgia," Clementine replied, figuring she'd be surprised.

"Georgia?" Minnie gaped, "You're pretty far from home, huh?"

"Hasn't been home for a really long time. Been on the road ever since this shit started, for the most part anyway. Grew up in Atlanta."

"I don't know what that is," Minnie said honestly, wearing a coy smile. "Formal education's long gone. I only know states, and not even all of them."

"It was a really big city. Nothing left of it now. What? Never looked at a map? They're still all over the school," Clementine said.

Minnie shrugged, "Didn't seem important. Not anymore. Didn't figure I'd ever be leaving this school, so learning the names of a bunch of places I'd never go to and are probably destroyed just seemed . . . pointless. Plus, geography is boring."

Clementine smiled at that, "Yeah, it is," she agreed.

"I've spent my entire life since the outbreak in this one spot, up until a year ago anyway."

"That's insane," Clementine said, still amazed by that fact. "I've spent the whole time moving from one place to the next, usually because the last place was destroyed. The idea that someone has managed to stay in the same spot this whole time is . . . unbelievable. I didn't think a place like this existed. "

"Well, hopefully you're done running. For good. You can stay here your whole life," Minnie said with a welcoming smile. "I mean, it's kinda boring, but—."

"That would be incredible," Clementine said honestly, causing Minnie's smile to grow even brighter.

The thought of living her life and raising AJ here, undisturbed by the terrors of the outside world, seemed like an impossible dream, yet here she was living it. She would do her very best to make it last. Never before had she wanted to make something work as much as this. This was a better place for AJ to grow up than she could have ever asked for. Now that she was thinking of AJ, she found herself wondering how he and Violet were doing on lookout together.


"Oh shit," Violet gasped, an overwhelming sense of dread taking over. AJ had caught her kissing Clementine, and she was faced with an impossibly awkward situation, now wishing she was anywhere but there.

"What? What's wrong?" AJ asked, confused. "I just wanna know, I've never seen Clem do that with anyone else before."

"I, uh, well," Violet stammered, her face turning red. "Can't you ask Clementine about this?"

"I guess, but I really wanna know now," replied AJ, now giving her a hard stare. "And now you're acting weird, and I wanna know why." AJ said, growing suspicious.

"It's uh, it's just a girl thing," Violet said, trying to think of a lie, anything to get out of this conversation. "You wouldn't understand."

AJ squinted at the trembling Violet, able to see right through the girl's pathetic efforts at deception.

"You're lying. Why are you lying? People lie when they do something bad. You're not doing something bad to Clementine, are you?"

"What? No! It's just . . . it's personal AJ, okay?"

"No!" AJ said defiantly, startling her. "You lied about where Clem was, and you lied about why you kissed her. No more lies! What's going on?"

Violet was stuck. She had lied herself into a corner, and now AJ didn't trust her anymore. She had no choice but to find a way to tell the truth.

"Crap, why do you have to be so smart?" Violet sighed with dread, rubbing her arm anxiously. "Alright, fine, I'll tell you, but I don't think you'll understand."

"But you just said I was smart."

"It's not about you being smart AJ, it's about me sucking shit at this, but I'll try my best," Violet admitted. "Clementine is gonna owe me so much for this," Violet said, taking a breath. "Okay, AJ, me and Clementine . . . have feelings for each other."

"What kinda feelings?" AJ asked, looking back to the forest to make sure he didn't miss anything.

"Well, really, really strong feelings. I like her, a lot. And she likes me," Violet said stumbling, about to explode from embarrassment. She almost couldn't breathe.

"People kiss when they like each other?" AJ asked, looking to her directly now.

"Well, not all the time, but yeah. Sometimes. It, it depends."

"On what?"

"On how much they like each other," Violet said, trying to stop herself from shaking.

"Clementine said people did that to people they love. Not just like."

"Well, it's, it's love too," Violet stammered. "I mean, people kiss for all sorts of reasons, but love's one of them. Like when Clem does it to you."

"So," AJ started, thinking about everything Violet's told him "Do you love Clem? Or just like her?"

Violet's heart jumped into her throat. He had no idea the magnitude of the question he was asking. She just stared at him with terrified, desperate eyes.

"I, I don't know," Violet said. "I mean, I think so." She wasn't ready to say it yet.

"How could you not know? I know I do."

"That's different. It's not the same. I can't explain it, I really can't, but it's not the same AJ. Okay?" Violet asked, wishing more than anything that he would just stop.

AJ stared at her for a very long moment. "Okay," AJ finally relented, looking back out his binoculars. "I still don't know if I get it."

"You're too young," Violet said, trying to take deep breaths to calm herself.

Then there was silence between them, and Violet thought it might actually be over.


"So, where are you from?" Clementine asked Minnie, now getting her mind back to their conversation.

"Pretty much everyone in this school is from Virginia or West Virginia," Minnie said.

"Tennessee's not from Tennessee?" Clementine asked, a little disappointed.

Minnie giggled, "No, that's where his dad was from. I guess he really liked his home state?"

"His father?" Clementine noticed, "Not yours?"

"Well, yeah. We're not full siblings. I mean, look at him, and look at me. We look nothing alike. We're not even the same skin color. We have the same mom, or, had the same mom," Minnie corrected herself. "I mean, I don't know for sure that she's dead, but I assume she is. Same as everyone."

"Most people who were alive before are all gone by now," Clementine agreed. "So, any chance you remember the name of the town or city? I probably won't know it, but you never know," Clementine asked, remembering what Minnie had said about being poor with locations.

"Uhhh," Minnie stumbled, struggling to recall. "What was it? Darn."

Clementine noticed that Minnie hadn't cursed at all yet, even going out of her way to use a substitute word. It was in stark contrast from the rest of the school, except for Tennessee, which made sense now that Clementine thought about. They were probably raised the same way, so their polite habits were similar. Clementine couldn't help but wonder how such nice kids ended up getting sent to boarding school.

"It's okay if you can't remember," Clementine said with a shrug.

"No, no it's on the tip of my tongue," Minnie insisted, really thinking now. "Pretty sure it began with an R . . . oh! I remember it was the capital of Virginia."

"Richmond?" Clementine asked, her eyes widening.

"Yeah! That's it. Richmond. I guess you've heard of it," Minnie said, her natural smile returning. "Yeah, that's where I spent the first nine years of my life. Don't remember much about it though. It's probably just like your city by now. All gone," Minnie said, the cheer in her voice a little off putting, considering the dark nature of the words she was saying.

"No, actually," Clementine replied. "People still live in Richmond, last I knew anyway. Well, it's 'New Richmond' now, but, still."

"Really? Wow. Maybe there's a chance my parents are still alive," Minnie said, smiling at the thought.

Clementine didn't want to get her hopes up, but she didn't want to needlessly crush her spirit either. Not a nice girl like Minnie. They'd almost certainly never know for sure, so Clementine let her dream.

"Probably not though," Minnie then said with a shrug. "Doesn't matter much anymore. I'll never see them again either way."

Clementine flinched slightly. Again, even though what Minnie had just said was a depressing thought, her voice retained its light, pleasant demeanor. Clementine couldn't believe someone like this could still exist, especially someone who spent an entire year as a slave soldier for raiders. She hadn't seen this much innocence in a person since Sarah, the daughter of Carlos, but she was naïve and coddled, someone who never stood a chance in this cruel world. Clementine had tried her best to save her all those years ago now, but it wasn't enough. She had been doomed from the start. Minnie, on the other hand, would have never made it through that whole year and back here if she couldn't handle herself, which just mystified Clementine even more. She had a feeling there was more to this girl, something she wasn't seeing. Was it really possible Minnie was so inherently incorruptible she could just take everything that's happened to her in stride? It seemed impossible.

Just then the door opened to reveal Ruby, a bowl of soup in hand. "Oh, Clementine. I didn't realize you were here," Ruby said, caught off guard. "I see you've met Minnie."

"Yeah, she came by to introduce herself. Isn't that nice?"

"Yeah. Very nice," Ruby said, eyeing Clementine suspiciously. "I hope she hasn't been a bother."

Clementine nervously looked away from Ruby's eyes bearing down on her. Ruby was sweet as can be when she wanted, but pretty scary when she was mad. Clementine knew what Ruby's concerns were, but she couldn't exactly explain the situation.

"No, not at all! We're getting along great," Minnie assured Ruby.

"Well, alright," Ruby conceded, although still not fully convinced. "I brought you some soup Minnie," she said, making her way over to the bed.

Minnie cringed a bit as she sat up, taking the bowl with her good hand, which was thankfully her dominant one.

"It's not as good as Omar's, but I tried my best."

"I'm sure it's fine Ruby, thanks so much."

"God, it's so great to have you back Minnie," Ruby replied with a smile, delighted by her gratitude.

Ruby left her side now, but was unsure if she should leave the room with Clementine still present. Clementine was starting to feel like she had outstayed her welcome. That had to be enough getting to know Minnie, right? Violet would be satisfied with this.

"Well, I don't wanna bother you while you're eating," Clementine said, starting to rise from her seat.

"Oh no, it's no problem at all," Minnie replied, right before she started on her soup. After swallowing a spoonful, she went back to speaking. "I love meeting new people, well, nice people anyway. And it's so rare that I get to. Please, stay," Minnie said, politely refusing Clementine's efforts at dismissing herself.

"Oh, well alright," Clementine said as she awkwardly lowered herself, now feeling somewhat trapped.

She genuinely could not believe someone like Minnie could ever be Violet's girlfriend. They were total opposites. Violet was introverted, snarky, and about as socially skilled as a "dead squirrel," to quote Mitch. Clementine of course loved Violet for those traits, but Minnie on the other hand had shown herself as nothing less than an extroverted, sweet, social butterfly. Frankly, she couldn't see Violet being able to stand someone as 'goody-two-shoes' as her for more than a minute, yet somehow, they had become girlfriends. Clementine was completely and totally baffled.

"Well, I'm gonna go then, I suppose," Ruby reluctantly said, turning to Clementine with a silent look, a look that said something like, "If you hurt her, you're dead."

Clementine shuddered a bit as Ruby went to the door, opening it to leave. "Goodnight Minnie, I'll see you in the morning."

"Bye Ruby."

"See ya," Clementine said without looking, taking a quick breath.

It's not that she wasn't enjoying this conversation, she was, but the more they talked the harder it would be to avoid "that" subject. She had to find a way to excuse herself soon, whether Minnie wanted her to go or not, but Minnie was so easy to talk to it was easy to get carried away. She really hoped Violet would appreciate this, forcing her into such an awkward situation. Little did Clementine know Violet had done her a favor, although unknowingly. If Clementine had gone back to her post instead of meeting Minnie, it would be her, not Violet, stumbling through an infinitely more awkward situation. Teaching Alvin Jr. about romance.

"Really, it's just nice to have another girl around," Minnie said, continuing her meal. "Especially now that Sophie and Brody are dead."

That was the first Clementine had heard of Sophie's death. Violet hadn't mentioned it to her before. Clementine didn't know Sophie, so maybe Violet didn't think Clementine needed to know such a thing, but Clementine felt a little hurt that Violet wouldn't share something that would be so saddening to her. Clementine looked away with a brief, troubled look.

"There's just so many boys around, I mean, half the girls in this school are the two of us in this room, and the third just left," Minnie went on, not noticing Clementine's change in demeanor. "Not that I don't love all of the boys or anything, but still."

"Even Mitch?" Clementine asked, looking back to her now with a wry smile.

Minnie giggled at that, "Mitch is a big softie once you get to know him, trust me. He can be a little mean sometimes, true, but then again, so can Violet. Can you blame them for being a little rough around the edges, though? This world is fucked."

Clementine recoiled at Minnie's sudden swear, and so did Minnie herself, immediately turning red and covering her mouth.

"Darn, that slipped out. Sorry, I never ever used to curse before I was taken. They were just so cruel that . . . sometimes I couldn't help it," Minnie said, turning away.

"It's okay, I don't mind," Clementine said, finally seeing a small crack in Minnie's "perfect" presentation of herself.

"I do, I don't like it."

Clementine thought this was probably a bad idea, but she had to ask it. "Then how did you and Violet get to be girlfriends?"

Minnie flinched a bit at Clementine's knowledge. "She told you about us? Wow, you guys must know each other pretty well."

"Uh, yeah. We're pretty good friends," Clementine said, already regretting this.

"Really? That's awesome. Violet's usually so bad at meeting new people, it's good to know she's getting better."

"Yeah . . ." Clementine said, finding herself rubbing her arm like Violet. "But uh, you didn't answer my question," Clementine asked again, unable to resist.

"Well, that's a bit personal, but Violet always tried to tone it down as best she could when I was around, especially when we were alone. She knows that kind of language makes me uncomfortable, which is why I got so upset after she screamed and called Brody a –," Minnie fumbled, almost saying the word herself, but caught herself. ". . . the C-word."

"Yeah, she was really mad."

"She sure was. I never want to see her like that again. Ever."

"Me neither," Clementine agreed, definitely sharing that sentiment.

Minnie finished her soup, placing the bowl on the floor, for she could not reach the table.

"I'll get that," Clementine offered, stepping up.

"Thanks!" Minnie said as Clementine picked up the bowl and placed it on the table, a loud yawn suddenly overtaking her. "Okay, I think I'm going to bed. It was really nice meeting you, Clementine."

"Yeah, you too," Clementine said, relieved it was finally over.

"Could you please blow out the candle? It's too far away for me."

"Yeah, sure," Clementine said, doing just that.

The room became dark, and Clementine made her way to the door, opening it and stepping out. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Bye."

Clementine closed the door, taking a deep breath. "Okay, that wasn't so bad. I think." Clementine left Minnie's door, making her way to the courtyard to go rescue Violet from AJ.


Clementine's shift was nearing its end, and soon Violet would be able to escape this awkward Hell with AJ. All he had to do was be quiet for a few more minutes.

"Violet?"

"Oh my God. What?" she asked, exhausted.

"I think Clementine loves you."

Violet looked dizzy. She couldn't take much more of this. "How could you know that? You don't even understand it."

"I hear her, sometimes, when she talks in her sleep. She talks about you."

Violet's eyes widened. She knew she shouldn't be hearing this, but she couldn't bring herself to tell AJ to stop.

"She says your name. A lot. She's always said a few names, mostly mine, but now yours too. A lot," he repeated, while Violet looked like she was about to faint. "I know you said it's different, but I don't think she'd be thinking about you that much if she just liked you, you know? When she says your name, it's different than when she says mine, it's—."

"AJ stop," Violet finally said, holding her hand to her beating chest. She felt guilty for letting that go on as long as she did. "You shouldn't be telling me that. That's really, really private."

"But it's about you," AJ protested.

"It doesn't matter. Seriously, those are Clementine's most personal thoughts."

"About you."

"It doesn't matter! Okay?" Violet said, holding onto the railing for support.

She felt sick. Absolutely, and totally sick to her stomach.

"Okay," AJ eventually said, turning back to the forest. "I'm sorry. I thought I was helping you."

"Let's just, stop talking, for the rest of the shift."

"Okay."

Another minute or so passed before they heard the sound Violet had prayed for.

"Hey," came Mitch's voice as his head came into view, climbing up onto the platform. "Wait, Violet? I thought it was Clementine's shift."

"I covered for her, she had to do something for me," Violet said. "I never thought I'd be so happy to see your face, Mitch," she said with no explanation as she moved around him, eager to climb down the ladder and escape.

"What?" Mitch asked in confusion, but Violet was already gone, having jumped off the ladder when she was halfway down, and was instantly reminded of her foot injury.

"Fuck!" Violet said, collapsing to one knee. "Shit that hurts!"

"Well, what the hell did you jump for?" asked Mitch from above, dumbfounded. "It's not like this is anything new!"

"Fuck off!" Violet snapped, rising to her feet.

"Whatever," Mitch mumbled, turning to see AJ, who was just standing there. "Uh, hey."

"Hey. Is it okay if I stay here and help?"

Mitch shrugged. "I guess, I don't give a shit."

AJ nodded with a smile. "Cool."

As Violet made her way towards the school, Clementine emerged from the doors.

"Thank God," Violet said to her girlfriend as she came up the steps, meeting her at the top.

"Hey," Clementine smiled as she waited, noticing Violet looked pretty disheveled and out of sorts, and her face was still red as Hell.

"How'd it go with AJ?"

"You're gonna have to ask him about that," Violet said honestly. "I just can't right now."

"Uh, okay. What happened?"

"He saw us, Clementine. Kissing."

Clementine's eyes widened. "Oh. Oh crap," she said, looking to him worriedly. She looked back to Violet now, feeling guilty for accidentally putting Violet through that. "So, you had to . . ." Clementine trailed off.

Violet nodded.

"Shit, I'm sorry. I should have been the one to do it."

"Yeah, no shit," Violet sighed, looking away. She was finding it hard to look Clementine in the eyes after what AJ had shared with her. That was gonna be awkward for a while. "How'd it go with Minnie? What'd you think of her?"

"Honestly? I think you're crazy for picking me over her."

Violet chuckled at that, knowing Clementine was just messing around.

"She's the single most pleasant girl I've ever met. She's just so . . . nice. She's nothing like you."

"Yeah, and tomorrow I have to tell the sweetest girl in the world that I've found someone else," Violet sighed, not looking forward to that in the least.

Clementine eyed Violet worriedly, "That's gonna suck," Clementine said, coming closer so she could position her face in front of Violet's. "But no matter what happens, I'll be waiting when you're done. We'll get through this," Clementine assured her, before giving Violet a brief, but motivating kiss.

When their lips separated, Violet couldn't help but smile. "Okay, that made me feel a little better," she admitted.

"Good," Clementine smiled, happy she could help. "I'll see you in the morning Vi," Clementine said as she left Violet at the top of the stairs, heading down to get AJ for bed time.

She looked up to see AJ standing next to Mitch on the lookout tower, and that's when it came back to her. Mitch. Clementine had gotten so caught up in the Minnie situation that she had completely forgotten about speaking to Violet about his worrying behavior. She really needed to be aware of that, because Mitch might get worse, and then who knows what might happen. Violet already had so much on her mind, but this was important.

"Violet, wait," Clementine said, suddenly turning to see Violet before she entered the school.

"Crap, why can't it just be over?" Violet whispered under her breath before turning to Clementine. "What's up?"

"We need to talk about Mitch at some point."

Violet made a strange face, "What's wrong with Mitch?"

"He's been acting weird, talking about his death and that he doesn't want anyone to think about him after he dies, shit like that. It's worrying me."

"Shit," Violet looked away, "That is kind of concerning. Okay, we'll talk to him, but later, okay?"

"Okay," Clementine agreed, watching Violet head into the school. "Goodnight, Vi."

Violet forced a smile to try to keep Clementine from worrying about her too much, for whatever that was worth.

"Goodnight, Clementine."

Chapter Text

The next morning, Clementine and Violet arrived at Minnie's door, and while on the way part of Violet hoped that they'd never get there. This might end up being the hardest thing she's ever had to do, and when you live in the aftermath of a worldwide apocalypse, that's saying quite a lot. Violet had spent most of last night planning how she was going to explain this to Minnie, finally having to settle on what she had come up with, before collapsing from lack of sleep. It had been one of the longest nights of her life, rivaled only by the first few nights after Minnie's "death."

"You sure you don't want me to come in with you?" Clementine asked, although she already knew the answer.

"No," Violet said firmly, "I need to do this alone. She needs to hear it from me and only me. You being there would just make things more painful for her."

"Alright, I'll be waiting right here then. You can do this Violet. I know you can," Clementine said, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.

Violet took the deepest breath she could muster. "Alright, fuck this, no more putting it off," she said, trying to hold her shaking arm steady as she knocked on the door.

"Violet? Is that you?" came Minnie's waiting voice.

"Y-yeah. It's me," Violet responded. "Can I come in?"

"Well yeah, of course!"

Violet looked to Clementine one last time before entering, receiving a comforting nod. Clementine watched as Violet entered the room and closed the door behind her. She was more than confident Violet's strength, but couldn't help but worry all the same. Then again, if she wasn't worried, she could hardly say that she cared about Violet, let alone be her girlfriend.

Violet wanted nothing more than to just get this over with, but she couldn't speed through it either. She wanted to hurt Minnie as little as possible, although in this situation that would be equivalent to stabbing someone two times in the chest as opposed to three times. Either way, this wouldn't be pretty. Best case scenario, Violet has to watch her cry and Minnie reluctantly wishes her good luck with Clementine. That was the best result she could hope for, and it wasn't a possibility she put a lot of faith in. Minnie was a sweet, gentle soul, and very rarely got mad, but Violet knew her well enough to know that the only sure way to make Minnie angry was to make her very, very sad. And Violet was about to do just that.

"Violet, I'm glad you're here," Minnie said with her inherent, warm smile.

Violet wished she could say the same.

"Hey, Minnie," Violet said, not even forcing a smile. This wasn't going to be a happy moment, and Violet wanted to be as upfront as possible.

Minnie wasn't stupid, in fact, she was sharp as a tack. She knew Violet knew what this conversation was going to be about, and the fact that Violet wasn't happy to have it said it all. Minnie's smile slowly faded. Violet had a feeling she already knew what she was about to hear.

"Minnie," Violet started, stepping right in front of the bed, facing Minnie head on instead of hiding in the corner. She deserved that much, at least. "I'm just gonna come right out and say this. I can't be your girlfriend anymore."

Minnie didn't say anything at first, but Violet could tell she was crushed, an expression of despair forming on her beautiful, sweet face. Any faint hopes Violet held out for a mutual understanding were dashed in an instant, and all of Violet's worst fears were confirmed. This was going to be one of the worst moments of her life.

"No," Minnie said in denial, tears already coming on fast. "Why?" She managed to get out, before breaking out into a sob.

Violet felt like she was committing the vilest act humanly possible by breaking this girl's heart, but there was no going back now. Violet wouldn't be able to hold out much longer before she started crying as well. Violet wasn't generally the kind of girl who cried much at all, despite her tear-filled outburst the day before, but seeing Minnie like this would definitely do it. Violet fought it back as long as she could.

"Minnie . . . the new girl you met last night, Clementine, she's not just my friend. She's my girlfriend."

"Oh my God," Minnie whimpered, realizing the true reason for Clementine's visit. "You sent her here last night, didn't you?"

Violet said nothing, but Minnie knew she was right.

"Oh God," Minnie turned away, crying into her hands. "I don't understand! What happened?" Minnie said through her tears. "I had a feeling you two might've been dating when she brought you up last night, but I never imagined you'd pick her over me! I thought you loved me, Violet!"

"I do love you . . ." Violet admitted, unable to hold back the tears any longer.

"Then why are you doing this to me?" Minnie demanded, almost screaming.

"Because things aren't the same anymore, Minnie!" Violet said, unable to help but raise her voice. "You were gone for a year! I thought you were dead. Marlon told me you were dead. I was, I was fucking crushed," Violet admitted, trying her best to stay strong. "I almost fucking lost it. I really did. The only way I was ever gonna get over it, was if I forced myself to move on. From you. So that's what I did, and I only barely managed it. I cried every night for weeks! But I got over you!"

"But I'm not dead! I'm right here!" Minnie argued, trying her best to fight this.

"I know, and as much as I'm thrilled you're alive, and that you're back, that doesn't matter, Minnie. I can't think about you without thinking about all that fucking grief, and I can't look at you the same way anymore." At this point, Violet was sobbing almost as much as Minnie. "We can't be a couple again, we just can't! Even if Clementine wasn't here, we still couldn't be together."

"What?" Minnie asked, now looking Violet in the face. "You're not interested in me at all anymore?"

"Not like that, no," Violet said as honestly as she could. "I can't do that to myself again, Minnie. I was so fucking upset, that i almost didn't make it. I closed that chapter in my life," Violet explained, trying to say the words she rehearsed as best she could. "You were my best friend, and you still are, but . . ." Violet trailed off, words now totally failing her. "I just can't," Violet looked away, unable to continue as her cries totally overtook her. "I just can't."

As Violet stood there sobbing, Minnie hung her head, tears raining down from her eyes like a storm cloud. Then she began to shake violently, her right hand forming a tight fist. "I . . . went through a whole year of Hell, Violet. I watched my sister . . ." Minnie bit her lip, forcing the ugly words from her mouth. "I watched my sister fucking die! I wandered that goddamned forest, with nothing to eat, for a whole fucking week! Trying to find my way back to this stupid fucking school!"

Violet's eyes widened as Minnie began screaming and swearing, never having seen this side of her before. She just didn't care anymore.

"The only thing that kept me going, was you," Minnie said, turning to see Violet once more. Minnie gave her a glare so hateful, so intensely furious, that Violet didn't even recognize her.

She didn't know who she was looking at, but it definitely wasn't Minnie.

"Your face. Yours and Tenn's. The hope that I'd be able to come back here, and be with you, and my brother, and everything would have been the same. That's the only thing that fucking kept me going! Do you have any idea what they did to me Violet? Any fucking idea?"

"Minnie . . ." Violet found herself backing away, honestly terrified. This was a million times worse than Violet's worst nightmares. She couldn't believe this was happening.

"And now I get back, and learn that I've been replaced?" Minnie continued, growing more and more furious. "That you're with someone else? That you don't love me anymore?"

"I do love you!" Violet repeated, shaking her head in denial. "You're not listening Minnie!"

"Shut up! Shut the fuck up!" Minnie screamed back, shattering what was left of Violet's weakened spirit like glass. "You're afraid," Minnie spat, managing to rise from her bed. She stood on her own two feet, facing down the broken Violet. "You're too afraid to love me again!" Minnie accused Violet, pushing her away. "I went through all that, for you! And it didn't even fucking matter? Fuck that! And fuck you! You fucking coward!"

That was it. That was all Violet could take. She turned away, fleeing from the girl she thought she knew. The sweet, kind girl she had loved for years. Clementine was still waiting outside, seriously contemplating going in when she heard the muffled shouts from beyond the door. She would soon be wishing she had. Violet burst from Minnie's room, collapsing to the ground just outside, sobbing uncontrollably. 

"Violet!" Clementine screamed with a panicked look.

Violet looked back at Clementine, tears streaming down her face, and took off down the hall. She didn't know where she was running, she just had to get away. Clementine watched helplessly as her shattered girlfriend disappeared around the corner. Clementine looked into the room, seeing Minerva just standing there, staring at her now.

"What the hell did you say to her?" Clementine demanded.

Minerva said nothing at all, only giving Clementine the same glare she had torn Violet apart with. Clementine had been right, she wasn't the same sweet Minnie, even if she had tried to be. Minerva looked away.

Clementine couldn't waste any more time, she had to find Violet. Fast. There was no telling what she'd do to herself in that state of mind. Clementine turned and ran after her traumatized girlfriend, leaving Minerva alone to think about what she had just done.

 

Chapter Text

Clementine emerged from school's front doors, quickly scanning the courtyard for any sign of Violet. When she found none, she looked to Willy and Mitch, who were talking at a nearby table.

"Willy! Mitch! How long have you guys been here?" she demanded, marching up to the two boys.

"Clementine, you okay?" Willy asked, noticing how upset she was.

"Just answer me!"

"Jeez, like fifteen minutes. Maybe. Why?"

"Have you seen Violet?"

"No," Willy said with a shake of the head.

"What's wrong with Violet now?" Mitch asked with a worried frown.

That proved Violet still had to be in the school somewhere. Her questions answered, Clementine turned and dashed away again without another word, back into the school.

"Clementine! Wait! What the hell's going on?" Mitch asked, rising from the table. When Clementine didn't answer, he shook his head in frustration and lowered himself down again. "Goddammit, I'm getting really sick of this shit."

Clementine didn't explain because there was no time to explain. The next place Clementine would check was Violet's room. It seemed obvious, but Clementine knew she felt safe there. She hurried into the dorms, racing up the stairs to the second level as quick as she could. When she reached Violet's door, she froze to the unmistakable sound of a girl's frantic cries. Clementine sighed a bit, at least she had found her. At least she hadn't resorted to anything extreme, but if Clementine didn't help her, there was still a chance she might. Clementine didn't want to believe Violet was capable of something like that, but then again she didn't want to believe any of this had happened.

"Violet?" Clementine called out, to which she received no reply. Just more crying. "Jesus," Clementine said, feeling absolutely worried sick.

She couldn't wait for Violet's say so. She had to get in there. Thankfully dorm room doors didn't have locks on them. She opened the door, immediately seeing Violet curled up on her bed with her back turned, sobbing inconsolably.

"Oh my god, Violet," Clementine closed the door, rushing up to Violet, sitting on her bed next to her. "Violet, what the hell happened in there?"

She had never seen Violet this hysterical. Up until the day before, she had never seen her cry once. Now she was a wreck, and Clementine had no idea how to handle it.

"Clementine . . ." Violet whimpered, still not turning to see her. "I'm sorry for running away like that."

"Vi, I don't give a shit about that! Just tell me what happened! What did she say to you?"

Violet tried her best to get a hold of herself as she rose up to sit next to Clementine, but she wasn't having much success. Clementine felt powerless. Violet looked awful. Like she had just lost her best friend. Again.

"She hates me, Clementine. She fucking hates me. It was a total fucking disaster," Violet hung her head, trying to wipe her tears away with her sleeve. "I've never seen her like that. She was so mad. She's never cursed like that at me before. It didn't even feel like I was talking to Minnie! I have no fucking idea who I was talking to in there!"

"I'm so sorry, Vi," Clementine comforted her as best she could, not knowing what else to say. Clementine felt like crying herself. This was a nightmare.

Violet continued, her tears not letting up even a little. "I thought that, you know, maybe if I came up with a good way to put it, if I found some way to explain it to her, maybe she'd understand!" Violet got out in-between sobs. "But she didn't! She didn't fucking care. I told her that I loved her, but I couldn't love her like that anymore, that I couldn't look at her the same way, and she said it's my fucking fault! That she went through all that shit for me! She called me a fucking coward, Clementine! A fucking coward! I tried my best! But I fucked it up! She was my best friend! And I fucked it up!" Violet broke down yet again, crying even more furiously than before.

Clementine, not knowing what else to do, wrapped her arms around Violet and brought her close, hugging her girlfriend as tightly as she could.

"Violet, it didn't matter what you said to her. She was always gonna be upset. You did your best, you explained yourself as best as you could! If she doesn't wanna accept that, than that's her fuck up. Not yours."

Despite Clementine's encouraging words, Violet didn't seem to believe her. She was beyond rational thought. She was convinced it was all her fault. Clementine couldn't do anything but hold her until she eventually calmed down. For twenty agonizing minutes the two girls just sat in silence, except for the sound of Violet's seemingly endless sobs, her face buried in Clementine's lap. Clementine never let her go for a second. Eventually, Violet's cries thankfully devolved into much more manageable snivels, and Clementine had hoped the worst had passed.

"It's not your fault, Vi," Clementine said after a long period of silence. "Your feelings aren't your fault. What happened to Minnie sucks, it sucks a lot, but she's being selfish. Really selfish. She can't accept your feelings, so she wants to force you to love her. She tried to guilt you into loving her. And honestly? Fuck her. That's not how love works, I know. You were honest about your feelings, you walked right in there and told her up front why it couldn't work. You faced her head on. How does that make you a coward? You're strong, Vi. You're the strongest girl I've ever met," Clementine confessed as honestly as she could, desperately hoping she could make some difference in this traumatic ordeal between two lifelong friends.

Clementine felt so bad for Violet. Over the past day she had been on an emotional roller coaster through Hell, between worrying about Minnie, Sophie's death, Brody's betrayal, and now this? Her only slight escape had been the romantic moments her and Clementine had shared the previous night. The poor girl just needed a break. For that one week between the battle and Minnie's return, things weren't easy, but they seemed perfect compared to this. Minnie being alive was still incredible news, but now everything was complicated again, and the pettiest parts of Clementine really wished that she had never shown up at all. She knew that was a horrible thought, but seeing Violet this way just killed her inside. It was a miracle for sure, but one she didn't need.

Violet said nothing in response at first, taking a few more minutes to take Clementine's words in. Clementine grew more and more worried with each passing second Violet stayed silent. Mercifully, it seemed Clementine had finally gotten through to her.

"I love you, Clementine," Violet suddenly said.

Clementine flinched, feeling like her heart had been jump started. They were the words she had dreamed about hearing every night, but neither girl had worked up the courage to say them yet. In her most vulnerable moments, Violet's fears seemed unimportant to her now. She had nothing to lose, and had dropped a gigantic bomb on Clementine. If Clementine didn't feel the same way, it would have made this awful moment even more painful, and Violet might have never recovered. Luckily, Clementine was able to tell her exactly what she needed to hear. Clementine felt like she couldn't speak the words fast enough.

"Violet, I love you too."

Violet's eyes popped open. She suddenly rose from Clementine's lap, an excited look in her tear ridden eyes.

"Holy shit, really?"

"Really."

Then, Violet finally gave Clementine what she needed from her. A smile. A small smile, but a hopeful one. Even if things with Minnie would never be the same, at least Violet knew Clementine would be with her no matter what. Clementine loved her back, and finally she thought things might be okay. For a moment they just stared a little awkwardly at each other, as Violet was still calming herself down, trying to take in the fact that Clementine was in love with her. 

"So, uh, what now?" Violet finally asked with a nervous smile. 

Clementine answered her girlfriend with an amused giggle, before leaning in to kiss her. In that moment, all the heaviness seemed to vanish in a brief reprieve. Both girls knew the feeling wouldn't last forever, so they held onto it as long as they could. Clementine's hand crept around Violet's hip and pulled her in even closer. In a world full of walking corpses, murdering raiders, and one really mad ex-girlfriend, it was as if none of it could touch them right now. No one was around to look at them or make Violet uncomfortable, so she didn't have to hold back. Neither girl knew exactly how long they had been going for, and neither cared to think about it. 

Unfortunately, reality always comes calling eventually. 

"Violet! Are you in there? Get the hell out here!" came the sudden sound of Ruby's harsh, angry voice.

Clementine and Violet broke away from each other in a fright, each one looking towards the door in irritation.

"Goddammit," Violet cursed as she rose from the bed, going to see what Ruby wanted.

Clementine thought about getting up with her, but let Violet answer the door by herself. She seemed to be okay enough to manage things on her own again. Violet opened the door to reveal the fuming Ruby. Violet had a feeling what this was about. She didn't even say hello.

"What the hell did you say to Minnie?" Ruby demanded, obviously having the wrong idea of who the real victim was. "She's not saying anything, she's not eating, she hasn't even turned around from bed! She just cries and lies there! What kind of cruel shit did you say to her?"

"For your information, she was the one who said the cruel shit, not me. Honestly, I'm not sure if I can forgive her for some of the things she said to me." Violet said, crossing her arms.

"Bullshit," Ruby spat back, not having it. That's when she spotted Clementine inside the room, sitting on Violet's bed. "Are you fucking serious?" Ruby eyes flared, looking back to Violet. "You break Minnie's heart and then you sneak in here to make out with her replacement? What the fuck is wrong with you Violet? And you Clementine! You two should be ashamed."

"Excuse you?" Clementine's eyes narrowed, rising from the bed and marching over. "This is none of your business Ruby, and you have no idea what you're fucking talking about."

"One of my best friends has been fucking traumatized, so yeah, it is my business!" Ruby shot back.

"She's traumatized?" Violet scoffed, getting more and more annoyed. "You have no idea what she said to me Ruby, and you have no idea what kind of shit I just had to go through. I tried to be as gentle and honest as possible, and she turned it into a fucking disaster! Not me!"

"Minnie would never do that! You know she wouldn't you dirty liar!" Ruby raged, unable to accept Minerva's hidden nature.

"She's not Minnie anymore! Whoever the fuck is in that room, it's anyone but the Minnie we used to know!"

Ruby lashed forward, striking Violet across the face with a powerful slap. Violet recoiled, the stinging pain almost numbing every other sense.

Clementine was outraged. Enough was enough.

She brushed by the stunned Violet, grasping Ruby by her shirt and pinning her against the wall.

"Get your hands off of me!"

"Clementine!" the shocked Violet said, realizing this was getting out of control.

"You've got some fucking nerve, Ruby. Coming in here, acting like you know the whole story, just because you saw one girl crying," Clementine warned her, tightening her grasp and pushing harder. "You don't know shit, so get your fucking facts right."

"Clementine, stop!" Violet demanded, pulling her enraged girlfriend away.

Violet held Clementine back as Ruby got a hold of herself. She hadn't expected to be the one on the ropes in this situation.

"Screw both of you!" Ruby cursed them, storming down the hall. "If you two are our leaders, then we're as good as fucked!"

Clementine and Violet watched her leave, saying nothing.

"That really wasn't necessary, or helpful," Violet said honestly, turning to Clementine. "That's gonna come back to bite us real soon."

"She was being a total bitch," Clementine defended herself. "She automatically took Minnie's side!"

"Yeah, she was, and yeah, she did, but we can't just team up on our friends like that, Clementine. They'll stop trusting us. It's not like before, when I was just some moody little girl sulking in the corner and it didn't matter who I pissed off. We run this place now. If this drama gets too out of control, this place will fall apart. And then we're fucked. We'll both end up like Marlon and Brody."

Clementine looked away. Violet brought up a great point. It was hard to believe that twenty minutes ago she was a devastated wreck, and now she was thinking this clearly.

"But it's nice to know you care that much," Violet smiled a bit.

Clementine smiled back, but they had other matters to tend to.

"You okay? She hit you pretty hard."

"I'll be fine, but shit did that hurt. She hits way harder than Louis."

Both girls shared a mutual chuckle.

"What are we gonna do about Minnie?" Clementine asked, addressing the elephant in the room.

"I don't know yet," Violet said with a sigh. "When she cools down a bit, we'll have to talk to her. She's one of us, and we have try to help her through this. She doesn't like being like that, I know she doesn't. She's . . . she's still my friend," Violet admitted. "We've got too much history for me to just abandon her. Even if she did say all those terrible things to me," Violet looked away, taking a breath.

"I'm not sure if I can forgive her for what she did to you," Clementine said.

"You're gonna have to try," Violet said back. "We both have to. And Clementine?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks. Seriously. I don't know if I would have made it out of that if it weren't for you. I'm still not okay," Violet confessed, averting her eyes, still a lingering, aching emptiness inside her chest. "But I'll get there. Eventually."

"I mean, what was I supposed to do?" Clementine asked back with a smile, relieved she was able to help Violet through that struggle. "I wasn't gonna leave you like that."

"Still, I don't know what I would do if you weren't here."

"Let's hope we never have to find out."

"Definitely," Violet agreed, taking another breath of air. "As much as I would like to keep doing what we were doing, we have to get this place under control. Ruby's probably taking shit about us right now to all the boys," Violet said with an irritated tone, turning down the hall.

Clementine nodded, following after her.

"I'm right behind you."

Chapter Text

Violet and Clementine entered the school courtyard to come across just about what they were expecting. Ruby running her mouth to whoever was around. The two girls' defensive reaction against Ruby had just reinforced her already decided opinion even more. Ruby had managed to gain the attention of Mitch, Willy, and Aasim. The only ones missing were Tennessee, who was probably with his sister, AJ, and Louis. Where they were, they could only speculate.

"This should be fun," Violet sighed as the two eyed the scene.

"Ruby, are you sure? That doesn't sound like something Violet would do," Aasim said skeptically.

"Did Clementine really attack you?" Willy asked.

"I'm so sick of all this girl drama shit," Mitch said.

Aasim noticed Violet and Clementine coming down the stairs, looking a bit relieved. Maybe now they'd get some answers.

"Guys, Ruby's saying a lot of really nasty shit about you two."

"Yeah, we know," Clementine replied as they drew closer.

Ruby turned to face them with a hateful glare, placing both her hands on her hips.

"Everything Ruby is saying is crap," Violet declared, eyeing Ruby right back. 

"Well, that's helpful," Aasim said, very sarcastically.

"Well, it is."

"So, you didn't just make Minnie cry? That didn't just happen?" Ruby asked, still volatile as she was moments ago. "You know, it's not that I'm mad at you for choosing Clementine, that's your business. Whatever. I'm pissed at you because you left her there crying, all alone, while you snuck up to your room to make out with Clementine!"

"Well, it wasn't exactly easy for me either," Violet said back, not wishing to disclose her emotional breakdown with them all, not unless she had to anyway. It was a very personal, vulnerable moment of hers, and she'd rather not have anyone other than her girlfriend ever know about it.

"You seem to be just fine now," Ruby observed.

"I might look fine, but I'm definitely not fine. Yes, I broke up with Minnie. Yes, she started to cry, but then . . ." Violet paused, for it was giving her distress to even think back on that traumatic moment for her. "She stopped acting like Minnie. She got really, really mad. Furious even. She started screaming and swearing," Violet tried to explain.

"Minnie doesn't scream at people," Ruby said, not believing a word of it. "That doesn't sound anything like Minnie."

"Minnie's different, I'm telling you!" Violet said, but Ruby just wasn't listening. "Something fucked her up during the year she was gone. Something . . . changed her. Most of the time she acts normal, but when she gets mad, she's just not Minnie anymore! She . . ." Violet paused again, trying to decide if she should tell them what words were exactly used in their fight. "She called me a 'fucking coward.' As in, she said the word 'fuck'."

"You're right, that doesn't sound like Minnie at all," Willy said. "She was always so nice. I've never seen her mad. Ever."

"Exactly," agreed Ruby.

"Ruby," Aasim started, looking to her. He had remembered something. Something important. "You were that last night, in her room. You remember what she called the raiders, don't you? When she found out they killed Omar?"

Ruby looked at him, then averted her eyes, looking off to her side. She had forgotten about that.

"She called them 'fucking scum.'" Aasim finished the thought.

"Wow, we sure that's Minnie in there?" Mitch asked. "I mean, damn."

"That doesn't mean anything. They are scum," Ruby said, turning back to them. "They did such horrible shit to her, I'm sure. They deserve it. That doesn't explain why she'd say all those awful things to Violet, her best friend."

"She's telling the truth," Clementine said, supporting Violet.

"Of course you would say that," Ruby said.

"I'm not a liar," Clementine squinted, getting really fed up with Ruby. "Have I ever given you reason not to trust me, Ruby?"

"You mean just now, when you threw me against a wall? Yeah, you did!"

"Did you really do that, Clementine?" Aasim asked, looking to her.

Clementine froze a bit, then looked away, now regretting that move quite a lot. "Yeah, I did. But only after she smacked Violet in the face."

"I don't believe this, this is all too much," Aasim said, wishing for things to just be simple again. "Ever since Minnie got back, this place has been a total clusterfuck. I don't know what to believe anymore."

"Well, I know what I don't believe," Ruby said, still not giving up. "I don't believe that Minnie could ever say those things! I've known her for years!"

"So have I," Violet countered.

Ruby crossed her arms, looking to the boys. "Do any of you really think that Minnie, the sweetest girl any of you have ever known, is capable of making someone like Violet that upset?"

"I do," Mitch said honestly.

"What?" Ruby asked with a disbelieving stare.

"You do?" Clementine asked, shocked herself.

"About half an hour ago, Clementine came out looking for Violet," Mitch explained, part of him wishing he kept his mouth shut. "She looked really upset. She needed to find her right away. After we said we didn't see her, she took off running again. She didn't bother to tell us what was going on."

"So?" Ruby asked.

"So, Clementine was worried about Violet. Like, really fucking worried. Why would she be worried if Violet was just fine? I'm just saying, it doesn't make any sense. Violet had to be upset."

"She did look really worried," Willy added, remembering the sight. "I was there too."

Ruby stayed quiet, trying to think of some way to explain that away. She just couldn't believe Minnie would be capable of such hostility.

"I mean, come on Ruby, she was a fucking slave soldier for raiders. For a year. You don't think that, maybe, just maybe, it might have fucked her up a bit?" Mitch asked her.

Ruby still said nothing.

"Thank you Mitch," Violet said, honestly surprised he stuck up for her. "Seriously."

"Whatever, just calling it like I see it," Mitch shrugged, looking away. "I'm not taking a side here, I'm just saying."

Ruby kept thinking, and finally spoke. "I need to hear this from Minnie. Minnie will tell us the truth. She always does. Or did that change too?" she eyed Violet.

"No, she seemed pretty fucking honest to me. Said exactly what was on her mind," Violet replied with a shudder.

"So then, let's go ask Minnie!" Ruby declared.

Then, as if on cue, they heard the front doors open behind them. They all turned to see Tennessee standing in the doorway, and next to him, was Minerva. It seemed her brother had been able to calm her down enough to stop crying. Just seeing her again made Violet visibly nervous. Clementine held her hand.

"Minnie!" Ruby gasped.

"Wow, speak of the devil," Mitch said with a smile.

Ruby shot a glare to Mitch for even implying that, then looked back to her friend. "Minnie, you shouldn't be out of bed."

"It's okay Ruby," came Minnie's soft voice. "I'm strong enough to walk now, really," Minnie said, forcing a smile.

"What do you want Minnie?" Violet asked, trying her best to keep her cool.

Minnie didn't seem to be able to look Violet in the face, instead hiding away from her in an almost shamed manner.

"My sister has something she'd like to say," Tennessee said, looking to Minnie.

Minnie took a deep breath, inhaling and exhaling. "Violet," she started, finally raising her head to look at her old friend.

Violet bit her lip, a deep sense of dread overtaking her. She couldn't handle seeing Minnie like that again. She really couldn't.

"I'm so sorry, Violet," Minnie confessed, shaking her head, her face twisted in a pained expression. "I'm so, so sorry!"

Violet didn't know how to react. Suddenly she was saying she was sorry? Clementine looked just as confused. Last time Clementine saw Minnie, she was giving her a glare of death. Now, here she was apologizing.

"Minnie, I don't understand," Violet said, wishing she hadn't chosen to do this in front of everyone.

"That girl who said all those terrible things to you, it wasn't me, Vi. You know it's not," Minnie said, a desperate look in her eye.

"Sure looked like you," Clementine said with a squint.

"Clementine," Violet looked to her. "I want to hear what she has to say."

Clementine sighed, reluctantly allowing Minnie to continue.

"I'm sorry," Minnie repeated, hanging her head in shame. "I—."

"Wait, Minnie," Ruby stopped her, looking distraught. "Are you saying that you actually said those things to Violet? All those awful things?"

Minnie sniveled a bit, tears starting to run down her face. She nodded.

"Minnie . . ." Ruby shook her head, not wanting to believe it.

"I'm so sorry Ruby, but it's true," Minnie turned to Violet now, looking disgraced. "Violet, when you told me, what you told me, I just . . . I couldn't handle it," Minnie admitted. "I love you so much, and you made me so mad, I, I lost control. That never used to happen to me, it was like someone else was in my body. All that anger just took over, and . . ." Minnie stopped, unable to think of anything else to say. "I'm just so sorry Violet!"

"Minnie . . ." Violet wasn't sure how to respond. Suddenly she felt like she was talking to the old Minnie again, and whatever force that took over seemed to have had retreated for now. She couldn't just leave her friend like this, even if she wasn't ready to forgive her yet.

Violet turned to the others. "Can you guys please give us a minute, alone?"

"I'm not leaving you with her," Clementine stood firm.

"I wanna stay too," Tennessee said, wanting to stay by his sister.

"Fine," Violet relented, as Clementine and Tennessee were both very close to this situation.

"I am fucking out of here," Mitch said in relief, wasting no time in making an exit, followed quickly by Willy.

"Well, I hope you guys can figure this out," Aasim said, taking his leave as well.

Ruby crossed her arms, reluctant to leave Minnie alone with Clementine and Violet.

"It's okay, Ruby. Really," Minnie said with pleading eyes. "I really need to do this."

Ruby looked conflicted, but eventually conceded with a sigh. "Minnie, I don't know what's going on with you, but I'm not mad at you. I'll help however I can."

"Thank you Ruby, that means a lot," Minnie said with an earnest smile. "But I really need to do this without you."

Ruby huffed, giving one last look to Violet and Clementine before heading off.

Minnie sat down on the stairs now, trying to rest her still malnourished legs. Tennessee joined her, eager to support his sister as best he could. Minnie looked to her helpful little brother with a smile, delighted that at least he was back in her life again. He certainly looked thrilled to have at least one of his big sisters back, even if it meant the other one was dead. Finally, Minnie looked to Violet and Clementine, the latter looking increasingly impatient.

"Violet, the fact that you don't love me the way you used to, it's . . . it's the worst feeling I've ever felt, well, maybe second," Minnie admitted, thinking back to when her sister died. She felt a great, aching pain in her chest as she spoke the words. "But if I didn't have you as a friend, I won't be able to make it. I just won't," Minnie said honestly.

"You should have thought of that before you called her a coward," Clementine said, feeling very protective.

"Clementine!" Violet yelled, turning to her.

Clementine looked startled, hurt even by Violet's berating.

Violet turned to Minnie and Tennessee, "Can you give us a minute?" Violet asked as she took Clementine aside for a second.

Violet looked to her stunned girlfriend, as she was wondering what she did wrong. "Listen, I know you're mad, and I know it's because you love me, and I'm honestly fucking ecstatic that you care about me that much, but you need to let us try to work this out, okay? She's been my best friend since I was ten."

Clementine looked away, realizing she had crossed a line. No matter what happened between the two, there would always be a bond between Violet and Minnie. Clementine couldn't relate, everyone she knew from that age was either long dead or long gone. Well, except for AJ.

And Lilly.

"Okay," Clementine nodded, "I'll stay quiet."

"Thank you," Violet said with a smile.

The two returned to Tennessee and Minnie, ready to continue. Violet knelt down, wanting to be at face level with Minnie. Minnie still looked ashamed. Violet wanted to be honest and clear.

"Minnie, I don't think I'm ready to forgive you, not yet. You said some really awful things to me."

"I know," Minnie admitted, "But that girl wasn't me! I'm really sorry, I am! Those raiders . . . they . . ." Minnie couldn't bring herself to talk about it. "They messed me up. I wanna be the same Minnie you knew, I really do, but sometimes it's so hard! I just want to be that girl again. I want everything to be the same."

Violet took a breath, "Things aren't the same, Minnie. They're not, and they can never go back."

Minnie looked like she was about to start crying again.

"But I still love you, Minnie. I do. I'll always be your friend. And I wanna help you," Violet confessed. "I'm not able to forgive you yet, but I'll get there, okay? What's most important is making sure you get through this, whatever it is."

Minnie sniffled, tears rolling down her cheeks, but managed a smile at Violet's sentiment. Even after all the screams and hurtful words, Violet still cared about her.

"Thank you, Violet."

"But, before that, you need to accept that I'm with Clementine now, and . . ." Violet paused, hyping herself up to say the next part. "And that we're in love."

Minnie looked at Violet with pained eyes, unable to stop herself from breaking down and sobbing. Tennessee looked to Violet as he tried to console his sister, an annoyed expression on his face.

"Did you really have to say that to her? Now?"

"Yeah, I really did."

"I mean, Violet," Minnie started, trying to get a grip. "What do you want me to say? It's like you're stabbing me in the heart. It's awful, but . . . but I'm gonna try, okay? I don't know when, or how I'll get over it, but I'll try."

Violet nodded, "Okay, that's good enough," she said, trying to stop herself from crying as well.

Clementine felt her chest twist and turn as Violet embraced Minnie, giving her a comforting hug. Clementine was still very much angry with her, and seeing the girl she loved getting close to the person who almost destroyed her made her squirm. Clementine went through all of that to build Violet back up from nothing, and here they were already making up. Well, not completely, but enough for Clementine's petty feelings to take hold. She fought her feelings back as best she could. She wanted to be happy for them, but she couldn't. Not yet.

"It's okay, Minnie. You're gonna be okay. We'll get through this."

"I hope so," Minnie said back, not as confident. "I really do."

Violet released Minnie, even though Minnie wished she would stay.

"Why don't you go back to bed Minnie?"

"No," Minnie said suddenly, catching Violet off guard. "I wanna take a walk. Around the school. It's been so long since I've seen it," Minnie said, gazing at the school yard she knew so well.

"Well, okay," Violet shrugged.

"You want me to come?" Tennessee asked.

Minnie looked down to Tennessee with appreciative eyes. "No, that's okay Tenn. I want try to do it by myself."

"Okay," Tennessee relented, albeit reluctantly.

"Minnie, are you sure?" Violet asked, "You're still recovering."

"I'll be fine," Minnie said before breaking away, rather abruptly.

The three watched Minnie climb he steps and venture back into the school. Hopefully she'd be able to make it through her walk without help, for she had wandered off alone. Then again, maybe she needed to be on her own for a while.

"Well, I think that went as well as it could have," Violet said, both surprised and grateful.

"I guess," Clementine said, still bitter.

"Clementine. . ." Violet started, eyeing her again.

"Well, Violet!" Clementine finally snapped, turning to her. "I just got done putting you back together, and now you're making friends with the same girl that broke you apart! You expect me to be happy about that?" Clementine asked Violet honestly, showing her frustration. "Because I'm not!"

Violet visibly recoiled, as Clementine had turned the tables on her. "Clementine, I . . ." Violet fumbled, unable to come up with anything to counter that with.

Clementine huffed. She had to go blow off some steam, and as much as it pained her to admit it, she couldn't be with Violet right now. "I'm gonna go find AJ. I'll see you later, Violet," Clementine said, leaving the girl she loved with Tennessee.

Violet watched Clementine go, feeling a bit like she just bit the hand that fed her. It seemed like Violet could only ever have either Clementine or Minnie at one time. "Shit! Why is nothing easy?" Violet cursed, stomping her foot in the dirt.

Tennessee looked to Violet, "I'm glad you're trying to make up with my sister. Clementine will get over. You'll all get over it. You'll see."

Violet sighed, wishing she shared Tennessee's seemingly unlimited optimism.

"Violet, we have something we gotta do."

"What?" Violet asked, looking to Tenn.

"We gotta take out Minnie's grave, from the cemetery. She's still alive, so it shouldn't be there."

"Oh," Violet realized, having completely forgotten. "Yeah, I guess you're right. We do have to do that."

"Come on," Tenn said, taking Violet's hand.

"What, right now?" Violet asked, letting him lead her.

"Yeah, right now," Tennessee nodded.

Violet was reluctant at first, but she wasn't exactly doing anything at the moment. Who knows? Maybe this experience would be good for her right now. They'd have to remove Minnie's grave, but keep Sophie's. Violet would be reminded of what she'd lost, but also what she still had.

Chapter Text

Minnie wandered through the halls of the school in a rather aimless fashion, a solemn look on her face, unable to be shaken off. Everywhere she looked she saw another memory of her and Violet, and it did nothing to help her mood. She tried to tell herself that things weren't all bad, that she had done the right thing by apologizing to Violet for her volatile outburst, even if Violet wasn't able to totally forgive her. She still had her friends, she still had her brother, and she still had Violet, just not in the same way as before. She told herself things would turn out okay. Eventually.

But it wasn't working. All Minnie could feel was loss. Seeing the school again where she shared so many fond memories with Violet just made her feel even worse. Nothing was helping.

Minnie stopped in place just before the grand staircase, sinking down against the wall, an inevitable sob taking her over once more. She wanted things to be the same, but they could never be the same. Sophie was dead, and Violet was in love with someone else. The only thing that remained the same was her brother Tennessee, as caring and supportive for her as ever. Yet like a fool, she had chosen to face these memories alone. As much as she hated feeling like this, she hated being angry even more. The girl she turned into when she lost control scared her to death. She couldn't let herself become that again, and she had done that by hiding all of her sadness to present as happy as possible to the others when she returned. She didn't want them to worry about her, she just wanted them to see the same old sweet Minnie, and everything could go on as it was. When that proved impossible, Minnie couldn't take it, and all those ugly emotions she had kept suppressed while trying to keep on a pretty face finally found a way out, in the most volatile, explosive way possible.

Things would never be the same, and no one would ever be able to look at her the same way again, least of all Violet. In her efforts to pretend everything was fine, she had nearly ruined everything. She had lost Violet's trust, and that reality was far more painful than any physical wound she had suffered. She could earn it back, but things would never be the same. Nothing would.

Minnie tried her best to get herself together, but the tears just kept coming. She sat there, alone, feeling as if there was nothing to help lift her spirits. She just had to endure the sadness until it eventually passed her over, if it ever did. The more she cried, the more self-defeating thoughts popped into her mind. She wasn't sure she could do this.

Then she heard something, loud enough to distract her at least. A pleasant, but slightly off key melody echoing throughout the halls. Music, or a piano to be exact. She knew who it was, as only one person besides her knew how to play the piano, or even had any musical talent whatsoever.

Louis.

In all the emotional turmoil, she had totally forgotten about him. He was the only person she still hadn't seen since she returned. He was always able to make her laugh, but Minnie had never been this sad before. It was worth a shot, even if it was a long one. Not to mention, the thought of listening to music and maybe even performing some, after going so long with being deprived of it undeniably gave her some motivation. She couldn't remember the last time she sang, as her traumatic experiences had drained so much of her spirit.

Minnie managed to get herself up, and she followed the sound of the music, even though she already knew exactly where it was coming from. The sounds grew louder as she neared the doors of the piano room, which were slightly left ajar. She crept closer, the door creaking open as she gently pushed the door open. She spotted Louis on his piano, which was anything but surprising, but what was surprising was the boy that was with him. A young child she had never seen before, or even heard of. He looked slightly like Tennessee, but she knew for a fact this boy was not her brother. Curiosity became yet another force driving her as she stepped into the room, soon catching the attention of the two males.

Louis looked taken aback by both her appearance and her presence, looking a bit distressed to see her in such a state. The boy turned around when the music stopped, wondering what had made the soothing sounds go away.

"Minnie, you're out of bed! I had no idea! Sorry, I didn't get around to visiting you yet. I kinda figured I'd just get in the way of, you know, stuff with Violet," Louis reasoned, trying his best to carry on with his warm persona. The only person around with an aura as welcoming as his had always been Minnie, but all that vanished when she did a year ago. Now that she was back, Louis hoped that this place wouldn't be so dreary all the time. Between people like Violet, Mitch, and Aasim, Ericson's had turned into a solemn, aloof place that took itself far too seriously.

"Well, I kinda wish you did, honestly," Minnie said with a forced smile. "I'm so glad to see you're okay, Louis. When I heard Marlon was dead, I didn't know what state you'd be in."

"Yeah . . ." Louis averted his eyes, "Let's not talk about Marlon, okay?"

Minnie eyed Louis a bit worriedly now, but agreed. "Okay." She turned her attention to the child, who hadn't said anything to her.

He almost seemed to be in awe of her. Girls don't get much more beautiful than Minnie, and even in her emotional turmoil, there was something inherently calming about Minnie's presence.

"And, who are you little guy?" Minnie asked, looking down on him with a friendly smile, yet with traces of tears still in her eyes. "Everyone has totally failed to mention you."

"Oh, right, totally forgot," Louis said, feeling like a fool. "That's AJ, he's Clementine's kid," Louis explained, soon receiving a strange look from Minnie. "Well, not actually her kid, but I think you can guess what I mean."

"I see," Minnie said, looking to AJ.

"You're Tenn's older sister, right?" AJ asked, "He's said a lot about you when we hang out. Even before you came back."

"Aww, you're friends with Tenn? That's sweet," Minnie said with a genuine smile. Tennessee was as kind as can be, but he had always been very shy as well, so making friends wasn't the easiest thing for him. "You like to listen to Louis play?" she asked, gesturing to the young musician.

"Yeah, it sounds nice. It's loud, but I like it."

"Me too," Minnie said, trying to hold the smile as long as she could.

"Hey Minnie," Louis started, catching both her attention and AJ's. "Maybe it's too soon to ask, but maybe we could both give AJ some entertainment, if you want. How about it? Feel like a song?"

Minnie's smile grew brighter, as if rejuvenated. "Actually," she said, turning to Louis with a bit of a floating feeling in her chest. "That sounds great. Have you learned anything new since I've been gone?" Minnie asked as she approached.

"Yeah, actually. I even wrote a song."

"Really?" Minnie gaped, both surprised and impressed. "What's it called?"

"I don't know yet," Louis said honestly, "I haven't come up with anything I've liked, but let's try one of the classics for AJ, alright? A song he knows, just sung by someone different."

"You sang for him?" Minnie chuckled. "You're a great piano player Louis, but not the best singer."

"Hey," he snapped, although jokingly. "Okay then, Whitney Houston," he said with a sardonic tone, "Maybe you can show him what a real singer sounds like then," Louis said, playfully jabbing.

Minnie found herself laughing, which was something she desperately needed. This was already turning out to be more than what she had hoped for. "Okay, Mozart, what did you have in mind?"

"I think you know which one, in honor of our newest friend, along with AJ over here," Louis said, giving him a knowing smile.

Minnie flinched, realizing what he meant. "You mean, 'Clementine'?"

"Yeah, sure, why not? It's stupid and silly, but it's fun."

Minnie was hesitant to sing a song that reminded her of Violet's new girlfriend, especially what that song so eerily and cheerfully implies about the girl.

"I really like that one," came AJ's excited voice. "I'd like to hear it from someone else, too!"

Minnie felt herself unable to look away from AJ's cheerful eyes. They reminded her of Tenn. She couldn't bring herself to disappoint him.

"Well, how could I say no to a face like that?" Minnie agreed, turning to Louis. "Whenever you're ready."


 

"AJ? AJ?" Clementine called out the boy's name as she wandered the school, starting to get a bit worried.

He wasn't in his room, nor was he with Tennessee, and although she knew he could take care of himself, she couldn't help be concerned. She had gotten so caught up with what happened to Violet, AJ had slipped her mind a bit, although she felt awful for acknowledging it. At this point, she was more or less his mother, if not also a friend. She still had one place to check before she ran out of ideas, and then she'd really start getting worried. Clementine remembered he liked hanging out with Louis sometimes, listening to him play, so she'd make sure he wasn't there before she started panicking.

Clementine came to the hall with the grand staircase, where Minnie had been crying just moments ago, headed for the piano room. She could hear the soothing sound of Louis playing, so she knew at least he was in there. Hopefully, AJ would be there too. What Clementine didn't know was Louis was with someone else as well, someone she didn't want to see, but someone she would soon hear, for the song was about to begin.

"In a cavern, in a canyon, excavatin' for a mine, dwelt a miner, forty-niner, and his daughter Clementine."

Clementine froze in place, for even though the voice was a bit distant and behind doors, it was strong enough to carry throughout the halls. The voice was clear, spirited, and pitch perfect. She remembered when Louis sang that song for her when she first met him, and she thought it was amusing, but he was no real singer. This girl was. She had heard the voice before, but never as she was singing. She knew who it was, because it could only be one person.

"Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine. You are lost and gone forever. Dreadful sorry, Clementine."

Clementine listened as Minnie continued, feeling almost addressed by the song directly, seeing as who was singing the song. The cheerful, yet oddly depressing and ominous tone felt fitting coming from someone like Minnie, but there was also something deeply irritating about hearing her of all people sing it. If there was one person who would have truly wanted her "lost and gone forever," it would certainly be Minnie. Yet in the end, she couldn't help but feel soothed by song as well, for Minnie truly had the most beautiful singing voice.

"Soft she was, and like a fairy, and her shoes were number nine. Herring boxes, without topses, sandals were for Clementine."

Clementine finally started walking again, quickly making her way to the end of the hall so she could see this herself. On the way she continued listening, for Minnie's voice was just far too pleasant to ignore, no matter how mad Clementine at the girl. It wasn't a long song by any means, so by the time she arrived at the door, Minnie was already wrapping it up. She came to the final verse.

"Ruby lips above the water, blowing bubbles soft and fine. But alas he was no swimmer, so he lost his Clementine."

Even Minnie's kind and angelic voice couldn't stop that from piercing's Clementine's skin. That one stung, and Clementine had had enough. She opened the door, cutting off the final chorus.

"You are lost and gone forever, awful sorry—" Minnie's eyes widened with a gasp when she saw who entered the room, letting the song go unfinished.

AJ turned to see who had made the song come to such an abrupt end.

"Clementine!"

Louis noticed, stopping his playing, a bit disappointed. He was very much enjoying this, but now he saw why Minnie stopped. Louis was unaware of the drama between the two, but even he could admit that'd be a bit awkward even without it.

"Hey, AJ," Clementine said as she entered, suspiciously eyeing Minnie, who was trying her best to look as innocent as possible. "I see you've met Minnie."

Minnie looked away, suddenly being reminded of what made her come here in the first place.

"Her voice is great Clem. I don't think I've ever heard something sound so nice!"

"Yeah, her voice is definitely incredible," Clementine admitted, although not dropping the look.

Minnie didn't know what to say to Clementine, so she didn't speak. She just stood there, looking ashamed and saddened. Louis could feel the thick tension that suddenly swept into the room, and he was not a fan. He quickly assumed Violet must have broken the news, and it wasn't hard to imagine why the two girls wouldn't exactly be good friends at this point. If only he knew just how badly that really went.

"Hey Clementine, why don't you take AJ for a bit, alright?" Louis suggested. 

"But I wanna stay and listen to Minnie's singing more!" AJ pouted.

"We're leaving AJ, come on," Clementine said, bringing him along.

"Goodbye AJ," Minnie managed with a smile. "It was wonderful to meet you."

"Alright," AJ said reluctantly, pouting a bit. "I really liked the song, Minnie."

"Thanks," Minnie said, giving him her best smile.

Clementine gave her a silent stare, forcing Minnie's smile to drop in an instant.

"I'm sorry," was all she could say.

"Yeah, I heard the song," Clementine said back without sympathy, or at least none that she showed. She closed the door, leaving Minnie in a solemn state once more.

Minnie sighed deeply, that familiar, dreadful feeling coming back on. Clementine was furious with her, and she deserved every bit of it. It didn't matter how sorry she was, no amount of apologizing would make it okay. Violet would come around eventually after some time had passed, but she wasn't sure if Clementine would ever be able to forgive her. Minnie felt powerless, for there was nothing she could do but wait and try to make things right. Louis looked at her worriedly, he could tell by the somber look on her face she needed help only he could supply her with.

"Minnie, you doing okay?" he asked, feeling he already knew the answer.

"No, not really," Minnie replied honestly, sitting down next to Louis on his bench. She hung her head, looking drained and deflated again. "I did something awful, Louis. Something I never thought I'd ever be capable of. When Violet told me about Clementine, I just lost it. I got really mad, and I said some really terrible things to Violet. Things I'll never be able to take back. She still hasn't forgiven me, and I don't blame her."

"Wow," Louis said, honestly shocked. "I mean, I figured that'd be rough, but . . ." Louis trailed off, for he was sure Minnie knew what he meant.

Minnie just sat there in silence, saying no more. Louis couldn't just leave her like this. He could never stand to see her sad, well anyone really, but especially not poor sweet Minnie.

"Hey, Minnie, do you remember how to play?" he asked, trying to lift the mood.

"Huh? Oh," Minnie said, quickly realizing what he meant. "Yeah, I think. It's been a while, but I was never as good as you at this."

"Have you ever tried playing with another person, at the same time?"

"What, like a piano duet? No, and that sounds really hard," Minnie said back, feeling a bit intimidated by such a proposal.

"Well, we've got nothing but time, and you're thinking so much about Violet that you're starting to act like her, and the last thing we need around here is another moody lesbian."

Minnie couldn't help but laugh out loud at that, which in turn made Louis smile brighter. "That was really funny." Minnie said after calming down. "But I'm not a lesbian, Louis. I'm bi, you've just only ever seen me with Violet."

"Oh really? Interesting," Louis said with an intrigued look.

"Shut up Louis," she said with a playful push. "Violet literally just broke up with me.'

"I know, I'm not stupid. I was just messing around. Mostly."

Minnie shrugged him off with a grin, turning her attention to the piano. "Do you have any idea how to do this?"

"No, but how hard could it be? You play one part of the song, I'll play the other."

Minnie shook her head, laughing to herself a bit, "This is gonna sound awful."

"Yeah, but so does everything at first. We'll get the hang of it. Anything you've got in mind?"

"Give me a second," Minnie said, for this would require some thought.

Minnie realized she had definitely made the right choice by coming to Louis. She had never been this sad before, and he still found a way to make her laugh and lighten her day. She really needed that right now. Things would be rough going forward, and she always knew she wasn't alone, for she always had Tennessee, and Ruby always seemed to have her back, even when she was in the wrong. But now with Louis, she felt like she had someone else too. He made her feel better in ways the others couldn't, and she had an idea or two why. She was still nowhere near over Violet, but when she was, maybe there'd be something there. Maybe. That bridge was too far off to cross, but she could see it in the distance. One thing was for sure, while things cooled down with Clementine and Violet, she would be coming here a lot more often.

Chapter Text

Violet loomed over Brody's now repaired grave with a conflicted, but mostly resentful stare. Rosie, Marlon's old dog, was sleeping on top of his grave again. She missed her previous owner, and as much as Violet hated Marlon, she wasn't cold-hearted enough to shoo the dog away. Over two weeks had passed since Minnie had come back to them, and things had mostly returned to normal once more, or as normal as things ever got anyway. She and Minnie still hadn't totally patched things up, but she was thinking maybe it was time for that. At least for now there was a peace, and Minnie seemed to be distracting herself by spending an increased amount of time with Louis and her brother. As long as she wasn't spending her days being a bitter-heart towards her and Clementine, Violet was happy. What Violet wasn't happy about, however, was how the vote she had called went, to determine whether or not to keep the markers on Brody's and Marlon's graves. Despite her intense feelings, she wasn't able to convince enough people to side with her, and she had to live with the result.

But she didn't have to be happy about it.

Violet looked over to Sophie's grave, sitting there alone now that Minnie's had been removed for obvious reasons. A living girl didn't need a grave. Brody and Marlon's scheme had gotten Sophie killed and Minnie kidnapped for a year, not to mention horribly traumatized. Yet even Minnie, the victim of Brody's and Marlon's crime, had sided against her in the vote. The way Minnie saw it, she saw the ordeal as over, and just wanted everyone to get on with their lives. Let the dead have their peace. Violet didn't think they deserved peace. She wasn't sure if Minnie was just being too forgiving, or if she was just being too cold about it, too unable to let go of the past. Maybe, when enough time had passed, a day would come when Violet could forgive Marlon and Brody for what they did, but that day was not today. Or any day soon. For the time being, she still hated their backstabbing, friend-selling guts. Both of them.

"Violet?" came Clementine's voice as she approached, a worried look on her face. "You've been out here for a while, just sulking. People are getting worried you'll do the same thing again to Brody's grave."

"I'm not gonna do that," Violet said back, not turning to her. "I'm not gonna go against what everyone wanted, even if I do fucking hate it. I just can't stop thinking about it, and the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off."

Even though Clementine didn't share Violet's strong feelings, she knew how important the decision was to her, so she had sided with Violet, but it still wasn't enough. Violet appreciated Clementine's support, at least.

"Well, you're not gonna stop thinking about it by standing here staring at them like this," Clementine reasoned. "Violet, can you please come back inside? I hate it when you're like this, you just stand there and sulk. You're starting to worry me."

Violet took a deep breath, and decided Clementine was right. She had been sulking out her long enough. "Alright," she agreed, letting Clementine lead her away from the graveyard and back towards the school. "I'll be okay, Clementine. Sometimes I just get in these moods, and it takes a while for me to come out of them. It'll pass, eventually."

"Violet," Clementine started as they walked, trying to keep her frustration under control. "I know what you're like, and I know you don't like talking about what's going on in your head most of the time, but I'm your girlfriend Violet. You have to trust me. You gotta tell me what's going on sometimes."

Violet stopped now with a visible cringe, for Clementine had just made her feel more than a little guilty. Someone who cared about her deeply was worried sick about her, and she had been leaving her out in the cold. She knew this wasn't okay.

"Violet?" Clementine turned around to Violet with a worried stare, realizing she had stopped.

"Fuck, Clementine. I'm sorry. You're right. I shouldn't be doing this, not to you. It's not cool," she said, coming closer. "I do trust you, okay? I love you."

"Violet . . . " Clementine got out, a little stunned at Violet's apology. She wasn't sure how to respond.

"Let me make it up to you. I've been . . . wanting to talk to you about something. Let's sit down," Violet proposed, taking a seat on the steps of the school.

"Okay," Clementine said as she joined her, a little curious as to what this was about.

Before continuing, Violet made sure no one was in earshot.

"So, I'm just gonna throw this out there," Violet said awkwardly, avoiding eye contact for the time being. "I was hoping that tonight, or maybe the next night, you could stay over. You know, in my room?" Violet finished, quickly turning anxiously to see Clementine's reaction.

"Vi," was all Clementine said, more than a little caught off guard. "You mean like a sleepover?"

Violet made a sour face. "Well, when you say it like that it sounds fucking stupid. You're my girlfriend Clementine, it's gonna be a little more intimate than the slumber parties you had with all your dead friends when you were eight. I mean, I'm not saying we have to fuck or anything," Violet stumbled, finding herself blushing a bit. "But you know, we're usually both pretty busy trying to keep this place together, it'd be nice to have some time to ourselves for a night. We could at least just talk and shit, you know? About what's bothering us—."

Violet was cut off by Clementine, suddenly finding herself being kissed on the lips. Clementine kept it brief, because she knew public acts of affection made Violet uncomfortable, but she had to show her appreciation somehow. When Clementine leaned back, Violet was red in the face, but wearing an undeniable smile.

"I think that sounds like a great idea," Clementine nodded enthusiastically.

"You do?" Violet asked, a little surprised. "I mean, what about AJ? Do you think he'll be okay by himself for a night?'

"Yeah, I think he'll even like it. Or maybe he could stay with Tenn or something. I'll talk to him about it."

"Well, uh, okay, I guess we're doing this then," Violet said, a little excited. "Cool."

"It's really cool," Clementine added with a smile.

After a few moments of rather comfortable silence, Violet finally spoke up again. "Well, not to kill the mood or anything, but do you have any idea where Minnie is? I want to talk to her."

"Where do you think she is?" Clementine asked, not very pleased the subject had changed to Minnie. Clementine hadn't forgiven her either yet, but she'd probably come around whenever Violet did.

"Louis?" Violet asked, already knowing the answer.

"Louis." Clementine nodded.

"Jeez, she's spending a lot of time with him," Violet said, "I mean, it's good that he can distract her from all her shit. If there's one thing Louis is good for, it's being a good distraction."

Clementine eyed Violet a bit, "Is that really all you think he's doing with her? Distracting her?"

"What do you mean?" Violet asked, turning to Clementine. "You think there's something else going on with them?"

"Well yeah," Clementine said as it was obvious. "I know he's into her, and I'm pretty sure she's into him too. I mean, it's none of our business, well, maybe it's your business. She's your friend," Clementine said, stumbling a bit.

"You think she's over me? Already?"

"Well, probably not. Not completely. Do you think she's into him?"

"I don't know, maybe, she always had a soft spot for him," Violet admitted, thinking back. "And I know she's into dudes too, not just girls. But I mean, just the idea that someone I was into is into Louis, is just . . . weird."

"You say that like he's not your friend," Clementine grinned.

"Of course he's my fucking friend, but he's just so fucking lame sometimes. I mean, he's a funny guy, but . . ." Violet trailed off.

"I get what you mean," Clementine assured her with a smile. "Why do you want to talk to her?"

"Well, I want to tell her I'm not mad at her anymore. I want to move past this shit. I'm sick of looking at one of my best friends and feeling like I can't talk to her anymore," Violet said honestly, although she wasn't sure telling her that would necessarily cure that awkwardness, but she had to try.

Clementine sighed a bit. "Okay, but I'm not ready yet."

"That's fine, you take your time," Violet said as she rose up from the stairs, looking down on Clementine with a smile. "So uh, I'll see you tonight?"

"Yeah, definitely," Clementine smiled back.

"Cool," Violet said, walking up the steps into the school.

Violet went from feeling pretty pissed to pretty damn happy in not much time at all. She wasn't sure what Clementine would say to her proposal, but the fact that she said yes really got her excited, and she was definitely looking forward to going to sleep that night.

Violet turned right at the staircase, headed towards the music. Louis was never a hard person to find. She knew they were trying to find a way to play the piano together at the same time, and even though it sounded terrible at first, they'd definitely gotten better after some practice, even with Minnie's broken arm. If nothing else, it was keeping Minnie's mind occupied, so Violet was definitely thankful for that. She hated to have to interrupt them, but this was important. She walked through the doors into the studio, gaining the attention of both Minnie and Louis.

"Oh, hey Violet," Louis said with a smile, although Minnie stayed quiet, still a bit hesitant. "How's the weather in Drearyville?"

"Shut up Louis," Violet said with a cringe, although she noticed Minnie's giggle.

Minnie was always easily amused, and Louis had tons of jokes. Some good, but a lot that most people would consider amusingly horrid at best. Minnie seemed to love all of them. Thinking about it kind of made her sick.

"Well, last I heard you were spending your free time hanging around a cemetery. I mean, who the hell does that?" Louis asked back.

"Violet," Minnie finished his thought with a smile.

"Apparently," Louis shrugged.

Violet squinted, for now she was being teased.

"Minnie, I want to talk to you. Can we go somewhere private?"

Minnie flinched, but she wasn't unwilling either. "Uh, alright. Sure, my room, okay?" she said with a forced smile, more than a little nervous.

"If you've come to take her back after all this Violet, I swear to God, I will kill you in your sleep," Louis said half-jokingly.

"Yeah, you don't have to worry about that," Violet said, trying to ignore Minnie's laughter again.

Minnie led Violet to her room, neither one saying anything on the way there. Minnie was still was still pretty anxious what this was about, and Violet was Violet. This was her first time being alone with Minnie since her violent outburst, so she was feeling a little on edge herself. When they arrived at Minnie's new room, for AJ and Clementine had the old one, Minnie silently held the door open so Violet could step inside with her. Minnie's living space had always been neat and tidy, as opposed to Violet's, which was pretty much a total mess. That reminded her, she would have to try to clean up a bit if Clementine was really going to stay over. Mental notes for later.

"So . . . what's this about?" Minnie asked as she sat on her bed. "I'm not gonna lie, you've got me a little nervous here, Vi."

"Can I sit next to you?" Violet asked.

Minnie hesitated a bit, but decided there was no real harm in it. "Sure," she replied, rather solemnly. Minnie was still very much ashamed by what she had done, so she wasn't comfortable being cheerful around Violet at the moment. She'd rather be honest.

Violet sat down next to her friend, taking a breath. "I just wanted to tell you that I'm not mad at you anymore, okay?" Violet announced, coming right out with it. 

Minnie gasped, now very into this conversation. "You forgive me?" she asked eagerly.

"Yes, I forgive you."

"Oh," Minnie sighed, holding her good hand to her chest as she lied down on her bed, feeling like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. "Thank God."

"But Clementine still hasn't," Violet reminded her.

Minnie's smile lessened a bit, but didn't disappear. "Well, at the end of the day, she's my ex-girlfriend's new girlfriend. We don't have to be good friends."

Violet frowned. Minnie was right, they didn't have to be friends, but they would be seeing a lot of each other, considering how small the school was. They couldn't just ignore each other forever.

"I mean, I want her to forgive me, but you're what's most important," Minnie said while on her back.

"I guess that's fair," Violet agreed. "You guys have plenty of time to work it out. Eventually."

"Yeah . . ." Minnie said, looking aimlessly into the ceiling.

"So . . ." Violet continued, changing the subject. "You've been spending a lot of time with Louis I see."

"Oh, yeah!" Minnie replied, sitting up on the bed again. "He's been a lot of help. A lot," she said honestly.

"Yeah, he's a good guy. Cheesy as shit, but, a good guy," Violet said, trying to keep a smile.

"Yeah, he is, he's also . . ." Minnie trailed off, her cheeks turning red as she looked away.

Violet's smile dropped now, "What?" she asked.

Minnie looked to her friend again with a sheepish smile, ". . . Really cute?"

Violet's eyes widened. "Oh my God. . ." she groaned as she shook her head, bringing her hand to her face. "You are into him. Jesus."

"What?" Minnie asked innocently. "What's wrong with Louis?"

"I mean, nothing. I'm glad you're getting over me, but Louis?" Violet playfully scowled as it was her turn to lean with her back on the bed. "Shit, if Louis ends up getting with my old girlfriend, he'll never ever fucking let me live it down."

"Neither will I," Minnie said with a smile.

Violet shot her a look, "If you start acting like him, I swear, I will kick your ass."

Minnie giggled as she switched to sitting in pretzel position, beyond ecstatic she was able to talk with Violet normally once more, only without the flirting. She didn't even care about Violet's cursing, she was just happy to have her back in some form. "So, um, do you think Louis is into me?"

Violet looked at her as if she had gone insane. "What the fuck? Minnie, of course he's into you. Look at you. I mean, he's a guy for shit's sake."

Minnie's smile dropped, "You mean you think he only likes me because I'm hot?" Minnie asked, feeling discouraged.

Violet recoiled, realizing that had come out horribly wrong. "No, I didn't mean it like that, I'm sorry," Violet apologized, sitting up. "Any idiot can see you guys are great together, as much as it makes me sick to admit it. You should definitely talk to him, when you're ready. I mean, do you think you're over me already?"

Minnie looked away again, "I mean, no. Not entirely. But it's going a lot better than I thought. I thought I'd be crying for a week or two straight, and without Louis I would be, but he just makes it so much easier. And Tenn does too of course, but . . ."

"Tenn can't do it the same way," Violet finished her thought.

"Yeah."

"Well, I'm glad things are going good, but how're you feeling? You know, with the whole . . . acting like you're not you thing," Violet said, failing to find a better way to put it.

"Uhhh," Minnie looked away again, causing Violet to frown. "I mean, I haven't noticed it since I got really mad at you, but it only happens when I get really mad. If something makes me that angry, than that girl could come back," Minnie admitted, feeling a bit deflated now.

"Well, it's a good thing you're a hard person to get mad, but we'll keep an eye on it. We'll keep working through this, okay?"

"Okay," Minnie said with a rejuvenated nod.

Violet sighed in a comfortable relief, feeling glad she could finally be in Minnie's presence without being on edge again. "Well, this has been great Minnie, but I still have shit to do today."

"Yeah, you're the big leader now. That's different," Minnie shrugged.

"Yeah, really different," Violet agreed. "Good luck with Louis."

"Thanks!" Minnie said with a grateful smile.

"I mean, I guess it could have been worse. It could've been Mitch."

Minnie shrugged, "Mitch is kinda cute."

Violet looked repulsed. "Okay, that's it. You're dead to me," she said as she turned to leave, garnering another laugh from her friend.

Minnie got up with her, for she still had her plans with Louis to finish. They walked out of the room together, but split up right afterwards.

"Bye Vi, I'll see ya later," she said as they parted ways.

"Bye Minnie," Violet smiled to herself as she watched her go.

Things actually seemed to be working out. For once. Compared to right after Minnie exploded on her, when she thought she and Minnie would never be friends again, this was an amazing feeling. To top it all off, she even had her plans with Clementine to look forward to that night, although she'd have to wait the rest of the day. Never before had she just wanted to skip all the way to bed time.

Chapter Text

Violet made sure to get back to her room as early as possible that night to try to clean up a least a bit before Clementine arrived. When she entered her room, she gave it a look over, almost instantly sighing in irritation. Her dirty clothes were scattered all over the room, while most of her clean clothes were piled up on the nearby chair. That would be easy and quick enough to clean up, but the main problem was the other bed in the room that wasn't hers. It hadn't been slept in for years, as the roommate that Violet had when Ericson's was still a school was long gone. Violet had been using the bed as a place to put various things, mostly because she was too lazy to find a proper spot for them. Butcher knives, cleavers, and other various sharp utensils she had collected to use as weapons, books, and even more clothes. The quickest thing to do was just to stuff it all under the bed, so that's what she did. Then came the next problem, the bed no longer had blankets. Violet had given them away to be used when they buried Brody's body. Back when she thought the girl deserved her sympathy. As much as she didn't think Brody still deserved them, she wasn't about to dig up her body to go get them back.

"Fuckin' Brody," Violet grumbled, her resentment towards her former friend showing once more. Even in death, Brody made her life harder.

Violet would have to check the surrounding rooms, most of which weren't being used, for an extra blanket. Violet hadn't stepped in any of them for a long time, for there was no reason to. Most of the rooms had been stripped clean a long time ago, so it took some hunting in the dark to eventually find one, stuffed inside a forgotten closet no less with a few other blankets and sheets.

Finally, it seemed that Violet had all that she needed. The place didn't need to spotless after all. She didn't think Clementine would mind too much, for she knew what her girlfriend was like. Violet made her way back to her room with the blanket in hand, just in time to see Clementine coming down the hall. It was a good thing Violet had gotten here early, otherwise Clementine would have caught her totally unprepared.

"Oh, hey Clem. I'm almost ready," Violet said as she approached, blanket in hand.

"Hey Vi," Clementine said, giving her a strange look when she saw her coming from a different room.

Clementine followed Violet into her room and closed the door, her expression turning to shock when she laid eyes upon the much cleaner area than she was used to seeing.

"Violet, how long have you been cleaning?" Clementine asked, a little awed.

"I dunno, like twenty minutes now?" Violet estimated as she placed the blanket on the bed.

"Vi, you didn't have to do all this."

"Are you kidding? You did know what my room looked like, didn't you? You know you wouldn't have been able to stay here if I didn't clean at least some of this shit," Violet said back, taking a seat on the new "guest" bed.

Clementine gave her a smile, sitting down next to her on the bed. "You're really taking this seriously, huh?"

"Well yeah, I mean, this is pretty big for us, don't you think?" Violet asked back.

"Yeah, I guess it is," Clementine said. "Did you ever do this with Minnie?"

Violet shot her a look. "Do you seriously want to talk about my ex-girlfriend right now?"

Clementine chuckled a bit, "I guess not." Clementine rubbed her arm nervously, acting a bit like Violet in that manner. "So uh, I won't lie, I'm a bit anxious about this."

"You are?" Violet asked, feeling a bit relieved to hear Clementine say it.

"Yeah, are you?"

"A little, yeah," Violet admitted. "What'd you do with AJ?"

"He's staying with Tenn. They both seemed to be pretty happy about the idea," Clementine said back, smiling at the thought.

"Well, that's good. I would have felt a little guilty if he was gonna miss you or something."

"Yeah, that woulda sucked," Clementine agreed.

Violet looked over to the candle on the stands between the beds, just watching the flame dance for a bit while she tried to think of something to talk about. They had plenty of time do whatever they wanted before they chose to go to bed, which could be whenever they wanted. No one was around to interrupt them like usual. They had the entire night to themselves, and the prospect frightened Violet a bit, if she was being honest. She had her girlfriend all to herself for the whole night, and she couldn't think of anything to say. Then again, if nothing was coming to her, maybe they didn't have to talk right away. Maybe they could save that for later. Right now, she needed a way to break this awkwardness, and they were all alone. Violet didn't have to be shy. She could just go for it.

Violet looked over to Clementine, noticing she was looking away as well, probably also wondering what they should do first. Violet closed her eyes for a second, taking a long breath.

She reached out, gently taking Clementine's hand. Upon feeling Violet's touch, Clementine glanced to her hand, her breath growing a bit shorter.

"Clem, we don't have to think that much about this, okay? Let's just . . ." Violet said no more, and leaned forward, making the first move for only the second time.

Clementine looked a bit flustered that they were starting off with this, but maybe Violet was right. There would be plenty of time to talk later. They were girlfriends, they didn't have to try to make conversation like strangers. Clementine let Violet press her lips against hers, making sure to give back every bit that she got. Clementine positioned herself as comfortably as she could, for she knew this wasn't ending anytime soon. It would end up being their longest yet. There was no pissed off Ruby or anything else to come disturb them. Clementine's eyes popped open in a shock when she felt Violet's hand on her leg, slowly making its way up to her thigh. How far was Violet planning to go with this first kiss? It had been a few days since they had gotten even a little time alone, so maybe Violet had a lot to let out. Clementine didn't want to get too carried away, but she let Violet continue, trusting her not to take things too far too quickly. They kept going as long as they could before the girls eventually had to take a break to catch their breath.

"Wow . . ." Clementine got out as she breathed, noticing Violet's hand still hadn't left the inside of her leg. "You're really different when we're alone."

"Are you complaining?" Violet asked with a smile.

"No, I'm just saying. That was pretty great," Clementine admitted, blushing quite a bit.

Violet finally withdrew her hand, which was somehow both a relief and a disappointment for Clementine. As much as she loved Violet's affection, she needed a bit of a breather after that. Her tolerance would build up more as the night went on.

"You're not so bad yourself," Violet grinned as she lied back on the bed, letting out a content sigh, folding her hands behind her head.

Clementine hadn't expected the night to start off so strongly, but she had mostly gotten herself back together. She decided to join Violet on the other end of the bed, lying down beside her. It was a bit of a tight fit, but she could tell Violet liked having her there.

"It sucks these beds are so small," Violet sighed. "There's barely enough room for both of us, just to lie here. If they were bigger, we wouldn't have to sleep in two different beds," Violet moaned, looking over to the other side of the room at her bed.

"Well, it was a school. Not a hotel," Clementine said back with a shrug.

"Yeah, whatever. We'll take what we can get," Violet said as she kicked off her shoes, then peeling off her socks using only her toes.

She took a good look at her foot, the one that had been shot three weeks ago now. She no longer needed the bandage, as it was mostly healed, but obviously her missing toes hadn't come back. She curled her remaining toes, still not over how strange her foot looked with only three.

"What's it like?" Clementine asked, looking at her foot as well. "Walking with only three toes on one foot? Is it hard?"

"Not really," Violet said, keeping her eyes on her foot. "It takes some getting used to, but toes aren't like fingers. You don't really need all of them. I kinda miss them though. Now my foot just looks deformed."

"I think it looks kinda cool," Clementine said.

"Really? You mean that, or are you just saying it?"

"I'm just saying it," Clementine said with a shrug and a snide smile.

Violet shot her a playful scowl, "Fuck you," she joked, giving Clementine a light nudge. "Like you have any cool-looking shit."

"Actually, I do. Wanna see?" Clementine asked.

"Sure."

Violet watched in wait as Clementine pulled off her jacket, revealing her white top fully. She pulled up her sleeve, presenting to Violet the scar she had received years ago from her rather traumatic dog attack. Violet's eyes widened as she looked upon the jagged, sewn together skin that had never healed right.

"Holy shit, that's fucking wicked looking," Violet said honestly, sitting up to get a better look. "How the hell did you get that?"

"I got attacked by a dog a long time ago, really long time ago. Before AJ was born."

"Shit, is that why you were so afraid of Rosie at first?" Violet asked, for now it all made sense.

"Uh, yeah, it made me pretty cautious around dogs."

"Well, you're right, that does look way cooler than my foot," Violet said with a sigh. "Still, I should count myself lucky. I coulda died doing that stupid shit with that sniper. I don't know what I was thinking."

"You were thinking we had to do something, otherwise we'd be fucked," Clementine said back, giving her a bit of a slack. "It's not your fault. Shit happens."

"Yeah, but I had a chance to do something useful and I just fucked it up, and ended up having to get saved by fucking Mitch. He's never gonna let me live that down."

"He saved us all, not just you. And don't worry, I love you and your fucked up foot," Clementine said with an earnest smile.

Violet snickered a bit as she looked away, her gaze now aimed at the ceiling. "Don't get all cheesy on me."

Clementine kept her eyes on Violet, not dropping the smile. She moved in closer, putting her arm around Violet's waist as she lied next to her. Violet looked a bit caught off guard at first, but her small smile back told Clementine that she didn't mind. Neither of them was sure how long they lied there like that, but it was the most comfortable silence either of them had ever experienced. It was so quiet Violet could her heart beat, in fact, she was pretty sure she could hear Clementine's heart too. Eventually, Violet turned over on her side so she could face Clementine, just so she could look into her comforting eyes. She wasn't quite sure what to say, and that was alright.

"Alright," Violet eventually said as she sat up a bit. "Don't freak out or anything, but I need to lose some of these clothes. I sleep in my underwear."

"Oh, uh," Clementine said, trying to keep herself from blushing, but it wasn't working at all. "Okay, I mean sure."

Clementine felt another shortness of breath coming on as Violet lifted her top over her head, leaving her in just a thin undershirt. Next she unbuttoned her pants and slid them down her legs, tossing them into the middle of the floor. Besides her underwear, Violet's legs were now completely bare. She lied down on her back once more, sneaking a look to Clementine, smiling in amusement when saw how red-faced she was. They were still very, very close together.

"This isn't too much, is it? I can go back to my bed if you want."

"No, it's okay," Clementine said, trying her best to calm down. "I'll get used to it. I mean, I have to eventually, right?"

Violet looked down to Clementine's feet. "So . . . do you sleep with your shoes on?"

"Huh? Oh shit," Clementine said, realizing she had gotten so caught up in everything she had forgotten about them. She quickly kicked off her shoes as Violet had done earlier, as well as taking off her socks. She was pretty sure she'd be leaving the rest of her clothes on though. Clementine lied back down next to Violet, who turned to look at her once more.

"So I know I said I didn't want to talk about her, but you were right. Minnie is totally into Louis," Violet said with a heavy sigh.

Clementine smiled a bit, "Yeah, I mean, it's not hard to see why."

Violet made a face, giving her girlfriend with a curious look. "What do you mean?"

"I mean he's funny, he's good looking. He's cheesy, but pretty charming and cute," Clementine admitted, hoping that wouldn't make Violet jealous or something. 

"Are you serious?" Violet asked, a little dumbfounded. "Wait, are you into dudes?"

"Yeah, I even, kind of had a crush on a guy once."

"Louis?" Violet asked, growing suspicious.

"No! Just, some other guy. I never told you about this?" Clementine asked, surprised this never came up before.

"When Louis asked, you said you never had a boyfriend." Violet reminded her. "The way you answered, I thought you weren't into guys at all."

"Well, he wasn't my boyfriend, but . . . there was a crush."

"Shit," Violet sighed, switching positions so she was lying on her back. "And here I thought you were like me. Guess I'm the only homo here."

"Guess so," Clementine said, smiling snidely.

"Whatever, it doesn't really matter," Violet said with a huff. "We're together. That's all that matters." 

"I mean, if it makes you feel any better, I didn't know I was into girls until I met you," Clementine said with a shrug.

Violet snapped to Clementine now with a bit of a blush. "Seriously? Wow, that's . . .wow," Violet smiled, feeling a bit impressed with herself. "Okay, that's pretty cool."

"Well, I'm glad it made you feel better."

"I'm glad I could help you figure that out," Violet said honestly, turning on her side again. "I mean, before now, when was the last time you were around a girl your age?"

"Oh God, I don't even know. It was a long time ago. I mean, there was one girl, Sarah. She was a few years older than me, and looking back on it . . . there's no way I'd be into her. Like, if we were the same age." 

"What was she like?"

"Uhhh," Clementine stumbled, feeling a bit uncomfortable talking about her. "I mean, she was nice, but . . . she wasn't too smart. Well, maybe that's not the right way to put it. She just . . . wasn't made for this world, at all. She never stood a chance."

"So she's dead then," Violet said, looking away. "Same as most people, I guess."

"Yeah, can we talk about something else?" Clementine proposed, not wanting to discuss this depressing subject any longer. "My life before this was a shitshow, Violet. Almost everyone I knew before here, is dead. Or they ran off."

"Yeah, sorry," Violet apologized, dropping the subject. "I'm just . . . curious about your life before this. I wanna talk about it sometime."

Clementine breathed in before answering. "Okay, but some other time. Right now, I don't wanna think about it."

Violet seemed to silently accept that. A few more moments of quiet passed. Violet eventually noticed Clementine's hand rise up again, gently wrapping her arm around her bare waist. It seemed like Clementine had grown more comfortable with Violet's lack of clothes.

"So, you're okay with this?"

"Yeah, I think I'm okay with it," Clementine nodded with a smile.

"Well, I'm starting to get pretty fuckin' cold. Usually I have a blanket on by now," Violet said as she sat up, getting on her knees so she could reach across the bed to retrieve the blanket on the other side. 

Clementine tried not to stare at Violet's rather exposed body as she moved around, but then found herself wondering if she should be stopping herself. After all, Violet definitely wouldn't mind, so why was she bothering? She felt herself heating up as she kept looking. Violet seemed oblivious to Clementine's staring as she covered both herself and Clementine with the blanket before lying back down.

"Alright, that's way better," Violet said as she made herself comfortable.

Now that Violet's body was covered, Clementine again felt both relieved and disappointed. She knew she wasn't quite ready for anything too serious, but she couldn't deny how attracted she was to Violet's figure. She wasn't quite sure what to do, or how to feel. She just knew she didn't want Violet to leave her.

"So, are you gonna fall asleep here? With me? Cause you seem to be getting pretty comfortable, Vi," Clementine said, trying to keep herself calm.

Violet shrugged, "I mean, I'll probably head back to my bed in a bit, I feel like going to sleep soon, alright?"

"Oh," Clementine said as she looked away, unable to hide her disappointment.

Violet noticed immediately.

"You want me to stay, don't you?" Violet asked with a sly grin.

"Uhh," Clementine stumbled, for Violet had put her on the spot. There was no use hiding it, for Violet already knew the answer. Eventually, Clementine nodded with a slight smile. "Yeah, yeah I do."

Violet laughed a bit, feeling an unmistakable lightness in her chest. Hearing those words was satisfying, uplifting, and a little bit frightening all at the same time. This had ended up better than she ever could have hoped.

"Alright, fuck it then. I'll stay."

Clementine didn't say anything, but Violet could tell by the expression on her face that  she was happy.

"Let me blow out the candle," Violet said, climbing out of bed for a brief moment.

Clementine took a deep, deep breath while Violet was gone, trying to contain herself as best she could. Violet blew out the light, and darkness enveloped the room.

Chapter Text

Clementine's life began to fall into a rhythm. Few days were easy, each one bringing its own challenge. For a while, things were actually seeming pretty calm. They still had walkers to deal with of course, but other than that, they were completely undisturbed. No more running from place to place, no more dodging bullets, no more having to look over her shoulder for something that wants to kill her every single day. For the first time since this all began, Clementine actually felt safe, as crazy as that sounded. Days turned into weeks, and before she knew it had been more than two months since her and AJ had first arrived. Ericson's was truly starting to feel like a forever home, and every one of the kids was becoming a closer and closer friend. Clementine and Minnie still hadn't totally worked things out, but Clementine could safely admit she wasn't mad anymore. She just hadn't gotten around to talking to her yet. Clementine felt a little hesitant approaching her on her own, and she thought about asking to Violet to help a bit, but again, she hadn't gotten around to it. At the moment, nothing was in need of a rush. Clementine's life was actually verging on calm and simple, and she aimed to hold onto that feeling as long as she could before things inevitably took a turn for the heavy once more. Eventually, something was bound to happen. She just hoped that whatever it was, whenever it came, it wouldn't be too bad. At this point, things were going well enough she was confident they would be able to keep the place together if something did go wrong. Still, she couldn't help but worry. This place was so perfect, for it to be lost now would be catastrophic for her, and AJ, and everyone for that matter.

Her relationship with Violet was going well, and she had stayed over a few more times since the first. Each time it got easier, and each time they went a little bit further. As much as Clementine loved it, she couldn't help but feel they were both ready for something . . . more. Maybe next time would be the time. She'd have to talk to Violet about it, but just thinking of the possibility made her dizzy. Every time she thought about bringing it up, she ended up keeping her mouth shut. She was pretty sure Violet was thinking the same thing, so at this point there was almost an elephant in the room every time they were alone together. It was starting to get a bit awkward, and Clementine knew one of them would have to talk about it eventually if they ever wanted to really move forward with their relationship. Even if they decided not to for a while, they still needed at least to address it.

Minnie seemed to be behaving just fine, much to Clementine's relief. She was still spending time with Louis, but Clementine was pretty sure nothing had quite happened there yet. Minnie had the love of her life to get over, so it wasn't exactly hard to understand why she wasn't willing to rush into something else. Still, Clementine figured it was only a matter of time before something happened, whether they got together or they decided to remain friends. It was coming eventually, not that it was really any of her business.

Minnie had finally gotten the cast taken off her arm, and had finally returned to full physical condition, if not psychological. However, that pain would never truly go away, even as much as she wished it would. That ordeal would haunt her forever. Clementine knew that feeling well enough. Being healthy again meant she had to help out like all the others, so Minnie was put to work to help keep Ericson's afloat, not that she complained about it. If anything, she seemed happy to finally help out. Like Violet, she seemed to dislike being a burden. Then again, Clementine figured most people shared that sentiment.

One day, Clementine was scheduled to go out with a hunting party to collect from the traps and maybe get a shot at some wildlife. Accompanying her this time would be Mitch. As much as she would have liked to go with Violet sometime, they came to the agreement that at least one of them should be present in the school at all times, in case any pressing matters came up that required a leader. So, unfortunately enough, Violet was the one person she could never be paired with. While she and Mitch were out hunting, it would be up to Minnie and Ruby to see if they could get some fish from the stream. They would both be out during the same time, not far away at all from each other. So far, Clementine had managed to avoid being paired with Minnie for anything, but she had a feeling that time might be coming. They'd have to work things out eventually. They couldn't just ignore each other forever.

"Fuck," said Mitch as him and Clementine came to one of their snares. It had been sprung, but by nothing edible. Instead of a rabbit or some other wild life they could eat, a walker hung upside down from the tree. "Not again," Mitch said with an annoyed sigh.

"This seems to happen a lot," Clementine noted, coming up beside him.

"Yeah, but there's not shit we can do about it. Things are too fucking stupid not to walk into the traps," Mitch said as he approached the dangling walker. "Assholes."

The walker tried in vain to get at Mitch, flailing its arms wildly with disgusting groans and moans. Mitch kept it at bay while he thrusted his home-made knife into its rotting skull, and the walker fell limp.

"Piece of shit," Mitch cursed as he then cut the snare, letting the even more lifeless corpse crumble to the ground.

Clementine watched Mitch fix the snare and ready it again, wondering how he had been doing mentally. Clementine and Violet had tried to approach him weeks ago, due to the concerning things he said referring to his own death. Despite their best efforts, they had gotten nowhere, and the stubborn as ever Mitch insisted he was fine. They couldn't help him if he didn't want it, so all they could do was drop the subject and watch him. If it got worse, they might have to try something more drastic, whatever that would be. Clementine couldn't help but worry. As much of an asshole Mitch could be, in a world full of scum he was a pretty good guy, all in all. She didn't want to lose any more good people, especially not to their own unstable minds. She had gone through that with Kenny, and she was almost forced to take his life. In the end she decided she loved him too much to pull the trigger, and Kenny had ended up doing something he'd never be able to take back. Jane could be a real cold bitch, but she didn't deserve to die, even if she had pushed things too far.

Clementine forced her mind back to the task at hand. She couldn't risk getting distracted while she was out in the open like this. All it takes is for you to let your guard down for one moment, and the next second you're walker food. She couldn't let that happen, not now. Not when she had so much to live for. She had to keep focused.

"Come on," Mitch said after he had reset the trap. "Let's go check the others."


 

Minnie and Ruby made their way through the woods to the old fishing shack. It had been the first time Minnie had travelled outside the safety of the school since she returned. Oddly, where many others would be frightened, she seemed all too eager to get back on the saddle. She had been lying around not doing much for too long. She finally had both her arms again, and she was ready to use them.

"God, it's so good to see you healthy again Minnie," Ruby said with a bright smile. 

The fact that Minnie had come back into their lives at all was nothing short of incredible, after being gone for a whole year and thought to be dead. They had gone so long without her cheerful presence, they had almost forgotten what it was like to have her around. It was almost like being visited by a ghost, only this one was very much flesh and blood. It was truly a miracle, and in a world like this, Ruby had almost given up hope she'd ever see one.

"No one's happier than me Ruby, trust me," she replied with a smile back as they came to the shack.

"So, how're things with Louis?" Ruby asked, although now wondering if it was a good idea.

Minnie had also told Ruby of her developing feelings for the boy along with Violet, although Minnie had shared them with no one else. It had taken weeks of heartache and anguish, made easier largely by the constant laughs Louis provided, but Minnie's pain towards Violet was finally fading. She could barely believe it herself, but she felt like she might actually almost be through the woods, in terms of her heartbreak anyway.

"Actually," Minnie said, unable to contain a blush. "I'm thinking of talking to him about it soon. I don't want to rush it, but I feel like if I keep on waiting, I might lose my chance."

"Why?" Ruby asked with a grin. "Louis isn't going anywhere. Neither are you."

"Yeah, but I don't want him to think I'm just leading him on forever and it's never gonna go anywhere. I get the feeling he's not gonna say anything to me, because he doesn't know if I'm okay yet. So that makes it up to me, as sucky as that sounds," Minnie said with a sigh.

"That doesn't sound very fair to you," Ruby said with sympathy. "You already have enough on your plate."

The two entered the shack to fetch the spears and other tools they would need to catch and retrieve the fish.

"Well, still, you should take your time. Louis isn't the impatient type, at least, I don't think so anyway. Do you think he suspects your feelings?"

"I'm not sure, maybe, I—." Minnie suddenly let out a gasp as she saw the familiar carving on the wall, something she had totally forgotten about.

V+M, with a heart surrounding the letters. Her and Violet's initials. Apparently no one had thought to get rid of it yet.

"Minnie?" Ruby asked as she realized her friend had cut herself off. She looked to where Minnie's gaze was going. "Oh," Ruby said with a deflated sigh, now looking at Minnie again worriedly.

Minnie just stood there with a solemn expression, unable to look away from the now painful memory. She bit her lip, managing to hold back her tears, but just barely. Maybe she wasn't quite as over it as she thought.

"Minnie, you ok?" Ruby asked, clearly concerned.

Minnie didn't answer, instead taking a deep breath, calming herself. Another moment passed in silence, and Ruby was getting increasingly worried each second Minnie said nothing. Then, Minnie stepped forward towards the carving, taking out her own hand-made knife. Violet had given Minnie one of her cleavers for protection during this trip, just to be safe, but the knife would do just fine.

"Minnie?" Ruby asked again, confused as to what she was doing.

Minnie walked right up to the wall, the carving now staring her right in the face. She remembered all those years ago when her and Violet had made this in the wall. It was when they first got together. It was a lifetime ago.

She brought the knife up to the wall, digging it into the wood. She slowly descended down the wall with the knife, and Ruby's eyes widened as she realized what she was doing. When Minnie was done, she had carved a large X through the heart with her and Violet's initials, crossing it out.

She sniffled a bit, unable to help a tear or two from escaping.

"Jesus Minnie . . . you didn't have to do that," Ruby said, now feeling very guilty for bringing her here.

"Yeah, I did," Minnie said back, not turning around to see her yet.

Ruby felt awful, but she couldn't figure out what to do or say to make this any better. She just felt like a jerk for not thinking of it before.

"Maybe you should just go outside, get some fresh air, okay? I'll get the stuff."

Minnie took a deep breath, before turning to Ruby with a forced smile. "Okay, I'll wait outside."

Ruby felt helpless as she watched Minnie exit, gently closing the door behind her.

"I am such a fucking idiot," Ruby cursed herself, looking back to the now crossed out carving. "I'm so sorry Minnie," she mumbled to herself.

Minnie took a few steps outside, heading towards the creek, still trying to get a hold of herself. She had just taken a very large step. At the very least, she had accepted her relationship with Violet was over, even if she wasn't one hundred percent over yet. She knew she wasn't over it yet, because crossing out that heart hurt like Hell. She stood over the creek, solemnly watching the fish swim down river, letting the sound of the running water soothe her thoughts. Just for a moment, she stopped paying attention.

She heard the sound of a gun cock behind her. A sound she knew all too well.

"Don't move. Don't you fucking move."

Minnie froze. She knew that voice. She felt like her heart had just stopped. This was happening again. This couldn't be happening again.

"Turn around. Turn the fuck around."

Minnie slowly turned, already knowing what faced her. Already scared out of her mind. Abel and Lilly, along with one of their goons. All holding firearms. They were back.

"Hello Minnie, did you miss us?" Abel asked with a despicable grin.

"Figured you'd come back here," said Lilly stepping forward, "What? Did you think you could just leave? You think we couldn't come looking for you? Dumb bitch."

Minnie said nothing. She was shaking violently, hoping this was just another one of her nightmares she'd wake up from. It wasn't.

"We were gonna get whoever came out here, but the fact that it's you makes it so much better. You caused us a lot of trouble," Abel said, before lashing forward, striking Minnie across the face with the barrel of his sawn-off.

Minnie let out a yelp as she toppled to the ground, bleeding from her face. She couldn't hold back anymore. Tears began streaming down her cheeks as all the horrible memories started creeping back on her. All that hate rushing back into her heart.

"What's wrong with you people?" Minnie asked as she rose to her knees, brushing the blood from her face as everything that was the old Minnie quickly retreated inside of her. She stared back at them that glare. That rage. What she had tried so hard to lock away forever, but now she just couldn't control it.

"Why can't you just leave me the fuck alone?"

The raiders didn't answer, not that Minerva expected them to.

"Just make it easy, Minnie. The harder you make it, the more we'll have to hurt you," Lilly said.

"I'm not going back!" Minerva shouted, startling them a bit. "I'd rather fucking die!"

Lilly glared at her, then looked to Abel. "Fuck it, just knock her senseless and we'll drag her along. I'll go look for the other one."

"Good, simpler that way," the one armed man replied, advancing on Minerva.

Minerva heard the sound of the shack door opening as Ruby stepped outside, unaware of what was happening. She must have heard Minnie's scream.

"Minnie? Was that you—."

A single, ear shattering shot rang out.

Minnie's blood curdled, her face twisting into a mix of horror and dread as Ruby's head cocked back. Her body went limp, suddenly disappearing from the doorway. Minerva knew right away she was gone. Her eyes went to Lilly, who had turned and fired on reflex.


 

Clementine had struck gold. She had come across a buck. Not a rabbit, or a squirrel, but an actual deer. They had the chance to eat real meat, and that was a pretty rare occasion. She tried her best not to startle it as she got as close as she could get. Mitch lied in wait nearby. When it came to bows, Clementine was the better marksman, so he put his pride aside to let her take the shot.

"Don't fuck this up," Mitch whispered as lightly as he could.

"Shhh," Clementine shushed him, drawing back her arrow, putting all her concentration into this one shot.

Then Clementine released the arrow, letting it fly. Mitch and Clementine watched it soar all the way to its mark, hitting the deer dead on in the neck. The buck made a terrible, awful sound as it fell over onto the ground.

"Fuck yeah!" Mitch exclaimed, rising from his position with a bright smile. "Nice shot Clem!" he said, giving her a congratulatory punch on the arm.

"Thanks," Clementine said with a modest shrug. She always liked when she got along with Mitch, for he had been her biggest opposing force to staying at Ericson's at one point. She felt like she had truly won all of them over.

"Come on, let's get over there and—."

Mitch was cut off as a loud, ear-ringing gunshot echoed throughout the woods. Both teenagers were stunned at first, not knowing how to react. No one in the school had guns. Someone else was here, and Minnie and Ruby were supposed to be at the fishing shack. They both looked each other, both sharing the same mutual fearful look. Without saying a word to each other, they both took off, bolting in the direction of the fishing shack, leaving the dying deer behind in the woods. If Mitch and Clementine ran, they could make it there in just a few minutes.


 

"Fuck!" Lilly cursed to herself, for she had just taken out a potential recruit.

"Lilly, what the fuck?" Abel asked in disbelief, turning her back on Minnie. "That shot rang out for miles!"

"It was an accident. She fucking startled me," Lilly said back in her defense.

Minerva's world was falling apart around her. They shot Ruby. They had come back for her, and she had gotten Ruby killed. Ruby was dead. Because of her.

She couldn't take it.

With a deafening, tear-filled scream, Minerva threw all thoughts of self-preservation to the wind, lunging forward with Violet's cleaver in hand. Before Abel could turn around and react, Minerva had plunged the blade deep into his neck from behind. Abel gurgled helplessly, falling to his knees, choking on his own blood as Minnie tore the blade out from his neck, just to drive it back in with another wild hack. Lilly and her goon watched in a stunned stupor as Minnie tore Abel apart, hacking his skull into little bloody pieces.

"Holy shit," said the goon, unable to help but turn and vomit at the gruesome sight.

"Jesus, fuck!" Lilly exclaimed in disgust, raising her rifle at the raging Minerva, who was now soaked head to toe in Abel's blood and brains.

Abel had been dead after the second strike, but Minerva had just kept hacking in a relentless, grief-stricken frenzy. When she was finished, there was nothing but a gory, mushy mess where Abel's skull used to be. Minerva looked up to the horrified Lilly now, staring down the murdering raider, unafraid of anything she could do to her. In that moment, she was hoping Lilly would just pull the trigger, and take her out of this awful world. She was ready to let it happen.

"Fuck this, you're dead! You're not worth the fucking trouble. You fucking killed Abel!" Lilly yelled, still in shock.

"Fuck Abel!" Minerva spat, rising to her feet. "And fuck you! Shoot me!"

Before Lilly could pull the trigger, an arrow came flying out from the trees, striking her in her shoulder.

"Fuck!" Lilly screamed in pain, getting the worst sense of déjà vu.

Lilly's goon looked to see Mitch across the creek against one of the trees, a recently fired bow in hand, quickly loading another arrow. The goon took aim, just in time for another arrow to soar out from the woods from another direction, piercing straight through the raider's neck. Lilly watched in terror as her man collapsed to his knees, an arrow sticking out from his throat. She turned to see Clementine standing a few trees away from Mitch.

"Godammit!" Lilly screamed as she pulled the arrow from her shoulder, raising her rifle towards Clementine.

Minerva saw an opening, and surged forward with Violet's bloody cleaver, bringing it down on Lilly's shoulder, the same shoulder the arrow had pierced, lodging it in Lilly's clavicle. Lilly screamed in agony, bashing Minerva across the face with her rifle butt. Minerva sprawled to the ground, spitting up blood. Lilly had had enough. She was cutting her losses. Minerva had just halfway cut off her arm. She raised her rifle with one hand and fired on Clementine as she retreated, covering her escape in the opposite direction. Mitch let loose another arrow, but it fell short, landing just at where Lilly's feet had been a second ago. Lilly disappeared into the trees, leaving a very visible trail of blood behind. She was running like wounded prey.

Lilly had run off, and Minerva was still alive. Mitch and Clementine jumped across the creek, trudging through what water they didn't leap over, rushing to their friend's aid. When they got there, Minerva was rising to her feet, a nasty gash on her face from Lilly had struck her. She could have killed Minerva with a full on strike, but luckily the hit didn't make very solid contact. The fire in Minnie's eyes was gone for now, replaced with an even stronger sadness.

"Holy shit, Minnie. I thought they were gonna take you again," Mitch said with a relief.

"Well, they sure tried," Minnie said back somberly, wiping the blood from her face.

Mitch spotted the decimated corpse of Abel, as did Clementine. Then they both noticed the bloodied cleaver Violet had lent Minerva, hanging loosely in her grasp. It didn't take them long to put the pieces together.

"Holy shit," Clementine said in disturbed disgust.

It was an even more gruesome sight than when Kenny had bashed Carver's skull in all those years ago. Carver's face was totally unrecognizable after Kenny was done with it, but there was nothing left of Abel's skull. Nothing intact anyway. After his neck ended, it was just a pile of mutilated, minced meat.

"Fuck, Minnie," she said, looking to the blood-soaked girl with a look that "worried" didn't even begin to describe.

"That's fuckin' hardcore," Mitch said, also awestruck.

Then they heard the sound of Minnie crying, watching in confusion as she sank to her knees, sobbing wildly and inconsolably.

"Minnie, it's okay," Clementine said, coming to her side. "You're safe. We won."

Minnie shook her head as her sobs became more and more furious, not even able to speak a full sentence. Just one word.

"Ruby . . ."

Clementine's eyes widened, looking to Mitch. Then they both looked to the fishing shack, the door still sitting half open.

"Oh no," Mitch gaped, a look of dread taking over. "Oh please fuck no."

Clementine and Mitch rushed over to the shed, leaving Minerva to cry herself sick. When the two got there, they saw Ruby's legs sticking halfway out the half-opened door. Unmoving. They both knew what they were going to see before they came upon it.

Lilly had shot Ruby in the face, a bloody bullet hole where her left eye used to be. She lied there, completely still, no chance of turning, for her brain had been blown out the back of her head. She had been killed instantly. All that spirit, snuffed out in a split-second.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Mitch covered his face, trying to hide his emotions. "What the fuck do we do?" he asked through a half sob. "Fucking Ruby!"

Clementine didn't have an answer for him. There was nothing they could do for Ruby. All they could do was go pick Minerva off the ground. Clementine looked back to her, unable to contain her own tears as Minerva collapsed onto her side, convinced she only had herself to blame. That this was all her fault. They couldn't leave her like that, or she'd go insane with grief. Any anger Clementine still held against Minerva disappeared in an instant, now feeling totally ridiculous and irrelevant. No one deserved this. One of her life-long friends had just been killed in front of her, because of her.

"Come on, we gotta help her," Clementine told Mitch.

"What about the bitch that did this?" Mitch asked with a seething glare, desperately needing something to take out all this grief on. "What about fucking Lilly?"

"We'll take care of her later. I promise. She's not going to get away with this, Mitch." Clementine said as honestly as she could. They were both crying, but Clementine was trying her best to stay reasonable. To remember what was most important. "But we gotta help Minnie. We have to. She won't make it without us."

Mitch said nothing, but eventually gave her a silent, teary nod, putting his rage aside for now. They both turned away from the haunting scene. Ruby was gone, and all they could do was try to stop Minerva from losing her mind over it. She had already been through so much. Now she would have to live with this on top of everything else. Clementine knew one thing for sure, it didn't matter how much history her and Lilly shared. It didn't matter that they were once part of the same family.

Nothing was going to save her now.


 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxTpB_Kvogw If you wanna see what hyped me up to write that bloodbath of a scene, this song helped me get in the mood. First of all, it's a great song, second, it's cool to see where the inspiration comes from. 

Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage


Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage


And someone will say what is lost can never be saved


Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage! 

 

Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a- 

 

Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a- 

 

Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage!

Chapter Text

So again guys, this is not a new chapter. However, this could be something just as exciting. I just got this idea this morning actually! I feel like I have more than enough readers to do this, so here it is: we're gonna have a vote! 

If you follow this story, you probably know by now by the foreshadowing and the name of the chapter, that next chapter is going to be Lilly's last. Bitch is gonna die. Who kills her, however, I'm going to leave to you! Or rather, Clementine, controlled by you. Make it a real Telltale experience. I was trying to decide, because I think both choices could work, but I think this could be really cool. 

Clementine is going to be faced with an important decision. Minnie wants to be the one to kill Lilly, and Clementine can either choose to not let Minnie lose herself to her vengeance and rage more than she already has and Clementine will kill Lilly instead, or decide that Lilly deserves what's coming to her and let Minnie carry out her violent, vengeful desires. If Clementine kills Lilly, her death will be quick and merciful. If Minnie kills Lilly, it will be long and agonizing. Either way, I'm going to do my best to make it as satisfying as possible. 

Here's the best part, your choice WILL have consequences. Real ones. Based on what you choose, it will change the development of Minnie's character. Darker Minnie vs Lighter Minnie. Minnie or Minerva. I'm not saying she'll become a maniac, but it'll change the way she behaves in later chapters. Even what music she plays and sings possibly. Or her relationship with Louis. Lots of things I could do with that. And I'm leaving it up to you, so you know, no pressure. 

Do you guys think this is a good idea? If so, comment with your choice, and majority will rule. Unless there's a tie, and I'll have to say fuck it and choose. I'm honestly really excited to see what you guys will choose, because either way it'll be a lot of fun, and I think the decision could go either way! 

Hopefully this works out, cause I'm a bit nervous as well. I can write most of the chapter without the decision, so I'll give you guys a bit of time. Let's say the end of Friday. I hope enough people comment.

I look forward to seeing what you guys choose! Please don't leave me hanging lol. 

 I'll probably replace this with the new chapter when it's finished!

Edit: okay so apparently I didn't make this clear enough, sorry about that. There WILL be consequences for Clementine if she chooses to do this, because Clementine is a good person by nature that has to perform a very cold execution of someone who was one family. It's gonna have an effect. It's just more weight that our Clementine would have to bear with, and it WILL affect her behavior, how she communicates with Violet and others, her potential life lessons to teach AJ, etc. This is a huge moment for her. She won't be able to just move past it so easily. Basically, do you want to leave Clementine with yet another awful burden to save Minnie from herself, or let Minnie have to bear it all?? 

Edit: Okay guys so I think I'm actually gonna call the vote by the end of tomorrow. I said Friday because I wasn't sure how many people were gonna vote but holy shit it's been quite a turnout. I don't think we need Friday, and I wanna get this shit up! Right now it looks like Clementine's gonna take it. The vote is something like 19-12 at the time of writing this. I voted for Minnie, but I'm 100% cool with doing Clementine. I really like the consequences for both and either way it will be satisfying. Don't worry though, I'll make sure to make an alternate execution scene to whoever doesn't win, just so we can see how it would've happened!

Edit: Alright guys, I have finished the chapter with Clementine's ending, because it looks like that one's gonna win. I still haven't written the Minerva one yet though, because the Clementine one took a lot of out of me and getting into the Minerva mindset is a totally different ballgame. Clementine has a pretty big lead, however. So I think at the end of the night, if Minerva is still way behind, I"ll just call it, and post the chapter with Clementine's ending. The alternate ending with Minnie will be the next thing I post after that.

Chapter Text

Alright guys since I'm pretty sure there's been some intense voter fraud, I'm making a new column for votes ONLY. You have to be a registered user, sorry. If you're a registered user that already cast your vote, don't worry, I'll use it. Honestly, I should have seen this coming, but I"m dumb I guess. Whoops. My bad. 100 percent.

For all the others who weren't signed it, you'll have to do it here. That's the only way this could be any kind of legitimate. I don't want this to seem like a farce. I'll extend the voting a bit so people can see this.

Sorry about this guys. This seems like the best course of action right now.

If you wanna debate please use the other page, just put names here. Minnie or Clementine to make things simple.

Chapter Text

Note: As usual, if you don't care, just ignore the lyrics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKdPffpsPKI

Disarm you with a smile

And leave you like they left me here

To wither in denial

The bitterness of one who’s left alone

Ooh, the years burn


Mitch and Clementine rushed back to Minnie to do whatever they could for her, for whatever that was worth. They were in tears themselves, so they weren't in much of a position to calm someone else down, let alone a girl having quite possibly the most hysteric episode of her life. Clementine at least had some experience dealing with emotional people, and was more in touch with her emotions than Mitch. Clementine sat beside Minnie, immediately embracing her. She wasn't sure what good it was going to do, but she had to try something.

"Minnie, I'm so sorry," was all Clementine could think to say as she hugged her as tightly as she could. "We're gonna get her for this, I swear."

"Clementine?" Minnie got out in between a sob, looking to Clementine with disbelieving eyes. "I thought you hated me."

"Minnie . . ." Clementine shook her head, "Forget about that! That shit doesn't even matter right now," Clementine assured her, hugging her even more intensely.

As Clementine tried her best to calm Minnie down at least enough to travel, Mitch was boiling with anger he was just aching to let out. He and Ruby had their differences throughout their lives, but everyone in the camp had a soft spot for Ruby. Underneath all that sass and yelling was one of the most caring souls in the world. And now she was dead. There was no getting around it. Lilly needed to die for this.

Then Mitch heard the unmistakable sounds of the groans of a walker. He spun around on instinct, seeing that the goon Clementine had shot in the neck had died and reanimated, and was now crawling towards the distracted girls.

It wasn't much, but for now it'd have to do.

He bent down, grabbing a sizable nearby rock before marching over to the walker, now trying to get up on its feet. Mitch smashed the rock against the walking corpse's skull, sending it sprawling back to the ground. He stood over it, stepping on its chest so it couldn't get back up, and hurled the large rock down with both hands on the undead raider's skull, crushing it like a nut. The walker went limp, its limbs falling lifelessly to the earth once more.

"You fucking scum," Mitch cursed as he spat through drying tears on what was left of the raider.

"Minnie, we have to get out of here and back to the school," Clementine said, keeping her eyes on the trees. "All that noise has probably attracted more walkers."

"Wait, what about Lilly?" Mitch asked as he came back to them. "We can't just let her go! She'll make it back to wherever the fuck she came from, and come do this again."

"Mitch," Clementine glared at him, for she imagined Minnie was in no condition to partake in such a thing.

"No," Minnie suddenly said, trying to brush the tears from her eyes as best she could. "No, he's right. We need to go after her."

"What?" Clementine asked, looking back to Minnie in confusion.

"He's right! If we let her go now, she'll just come back again, and next it'll be someone else. Next time it could be any one of us. Besides, she can't get away with this," Minnie made clear, her hand molding into a very noticeable tight fist.

Clementine eyed Minnie worriedly. She had already viciously cleaved Abel's head into mincemeat, there was no telling what she'd do to Lilly if she got her hands on her. She knew for a fact Mitch's heart was filled with vengeful desires as well, but Clementine didn't think now was the time for it.

"No, we need to regroup, make a plan."

"Fuck your plans," Mitch said defiantly. "She's wounded, she's bleeding all over the place, now is the perfect time to finish her. We've hunted fleeing prey before Clementine, it'll be just like that."

"It's not the same!" Clementine said back.

"Yes, it is!" Minnie almost yelled, startling Clementine a bit as Minnie managed to rise to her feet. "You wanna go back because of me, right? You can worry about me later, okay Clementine? If we go back now, we'll miss our chance, and I'm not letting her walk away from this," Minnie said back to Clementine.

Clementine kept looking into her eyes, noticing her distinct change in attitude. That glare. It was the same glare she saw after Minerva verbally tore Violet apart. Minerva wanted blood, and so did Mitch, and Clementine was losing this fight.

"She still has a gun," Clementine pointed out.

"So do we," Minerva replied, walking over to the decimated remains of Abel. She bent down, retrieving his sawed-off shotgun from his body, prying it from his grasp. She looted his body for ammo, finding a good amount of shells.

"Guys, this is a bad idea," Clementine said, worrying for both of their mental states. Mitch seemed all too eager to throw his life away, and Minnie's rage was edging on uncontrollable.

"If you don't wanna help, then go back, but we're not going back until Lilly is dead," Mitch told her.

Minnie rose from the dead body of Abel, standing next to Mitch in agreement.

"Jesus Christ guys," Clementine said with a shake of the head.

Neither one of them was backing down, and Clementine wasn't about to let them go after Lilly of all people alone.

"Fine, I'm coming with you. I can't let you do this alone," Clementine reluctantly went along with it, spotting the other dead raider's rifle.

Minnie had spent a whole year being a slave soldier for these raiders, and by the way she was looking over Abel's shotgun, she seemed more than knowledgeable.

"Abel might have been scum, but at least he took care of his weapon," Minnie said as snapped shut the shotgun.

"Mitch, have you ever fired a gun before?" Clementine asked as she picked up the rifle, starting to rummage the corpse of the walker for ammo. On him, she found a revolver as well, with a full six rounds of ammo.

"No, we never had any guns here, and I came here when I was like nine," Mitch admitted, feeling a little outclassed.

"Here, it's easy. You don't need to worry about reloading it right now, because we don't have enough bullets anyway."

"No, you can show me later," Mitch said, stopping Clementine in her tracks. "We don't have the time. You stick to what you're good at, I'll stick to what I'm good at. I'll grab a spear from the shed, I'm the best arm in the school," he said confidently, heading towards the shack.

"Well, alright then," Clementine said, turning to Minnie. "You want it?" Clementine asked, thinking a revolver would be more useful in precise situations than a shotgun.

"Yeah, sure," Minnie said, taking the firearm from her grasp. "Thank you for doing this Clementine," Minerva said to her as earnestly as she could muster. "This means a lot."

"Yeah, well, let's just do it," Clementine said, for she was still reluctant.

It's not that she didn't agree that Lilly needed to die, but there were plenty of ways something like this this could go wrong, especially when one of her companions was a headstrong macho meathead with a death wish, and the other was a recovering traumatized girl who was now bordering on psychotic.

"Alright," Mitch said as he came down the steps, multiple spears in hand. "Let's hunt this bitch down."


 

Lilly made her way through the woods, trudging along, fleeing like a hunted, wounded animal. This could not have gone worse for her. She had ended up killing one of the kids she was supposed to bring back, and she had lost Abel and another soldier. Things were looking grim for her, and they were about to get grimmer.

She stopped for few moments, leaning against a tree to catch her breath. She kept pressure on her wound, looking into her pocket for some emergency bandages that would do for the time being. She didn't figure Clementine or the others would be coming after all.

She figured wrong.

When she was almost done applying the bandage, she heard the sound of leaves being crumpled to her left. An animal maybe? Lilly looked, to see Minerva only about fifteen feet away, a death glare in her eyes as she raised Abel's shotgun. Lilly's eyes widened.

She broke away from the tree just in time before Minerva fired, the buckshot blasting apart the bark of the tree where Lilly just was.

"Fuck," Lilly panted, trying to get away, trying to run in a diagonal fashion instead of a straight line, deeper into the woods.

Lilly hadn't realized that the kids would take the guns off her raider's bodies. Minerva had taken Abel's shotgun, and was now using it on her.

"Lilly!" came Minerva's violent, vengeful shrill, as she called after her, her pained voice echoing through the woods like a siren. "You're not running away from this!"

Lilly could now hear footsteps behind her as she darted through the trees. More than one pair. A rifle shot rang out, grazing Lilly's leg as she retreated. Lilly stumbled to the ground, but picked herself up in an instant and kept going, now keeping a hand on her bleeding leg. It was just a flesh wound, but it was a painful one. Lilly turned back as she was running to fire at the two figures pursuing her, not really trying to hit anything, just a desperate attempt to scare them off.

But it wasn't working. Another rifle shot was fired after her, this one just missing her by inches as it struck the tree she passed. After more than a minute of dodging trees and trying to throw them off her trail using elusive maneuvers, it looked like she might have lost Clementine and Minnie, at least for the time being. They weren't right behind her anymore, at least, and she could no longer hear their footsteps. She kept running, just to gain as much distance as possible.

She looked behind her again, making sure she wasn't being followed. She saw no one. Just then, a projectile came flying from seemingly nowhere, lodging itself in the tree right in front of her. A spear. Lilly turned to run face first into the rod of the spear. Her rifle flew from her hands as she crashed to the ground hard, an intense pain right above her mouth where she clothes-lined the wooden handle. Lilly picked herself up as quickly as she could, unable to find her lost rifle.

"Fuck!" she cursed, turning to see her assailant, now stepping into the open.

"That looked like it really fucking hurt," said Mitch as he exposed himself, a spear in each hand. "Good." 

Lilly glared at him, not intimidated in the least. She would have to fight. Mitch was a good enough arm to nail in the back if she tried to run. She drew her knife.

"Don't fuck with me kid, I've killed a hundred headstrong punks just like you," she said as Mitch approached, sidestepping to get a better angle.

There was no fear in Mitch's eyes. Whatever was about to happen here, he seemed ready to accept it. He wasn't letting Lilly go without a fight.

"She's over here!" he suddenly screamed out into the woods. "I've got her over here!"

"Mitch?" came Clementine's sudden, concerned voice.

"Shut the fuck up!" Lilly screamed as she came at him.

Mitch readied a spear and chucked it at Lilly's face in a quick, shocking motion. Lilly, caught off guard, jerked her head to the side, but not quite enough. The sharp side of the spear ripped through the side of her face, slicing her cheek badly.

Lilly screamed in agony as Mitch charged her. Unafraid.

Lilly managed to recover enough to dodge his thrust, slashing her knife across Mitch's arm as she jumped back. Mitch cringed as the gash on his arm began to bleed, quite badly. He clutched his arm tightly, still managing to hold the spear in the other as he faced down Lilly, who was trying to decide her next move. Lilly by far had the more experience. If this fight went on for too long, Mitch would end up dead. Mitch just wanted to hold her back as long as he could so Minnie or Clementine could get there and shoot her.

"You could still walk away from this kid!" Lilly said, hoping to dissuade him. "You walk away, I'll walk away. I don't have to kill you here."

"Fuck that," Mitch said defiantly, "After all the shit you've done? After you fucking killed Ruby? Fuck you. If you wanna get past me, you'll have to kill me, cause I don't fucking care anymore!" Mitch yelled back, readying his spear.

"Stupid . . . fucking kid," Lilly cursed as she shook her head, positioning herself for another strike. "You asked for this."

Mitch braced himself for a possible counter attack as Lilly charged, raising her knife.

Lilly never made it to him. A shotgun blast rang out nearby, spraying buckshot in Lilly's direction. Lilly screamed as the pellets mangled her hand, dropping her knife to the ground as she backed off. Mitch snapped to where the shot had come from to see Minnie with her shotgun raised, and Clementine standing just nearby.

"Little motherfucker!" Lilly yelled as stared at her bleeding, now disfigured hand.

Mitch took advantage of the opening. He wanted to make sure Lilly didn't away. He fought through the pain of his wound, attacking Lilly with another spear thrust. With no weapon to defend herself and too distracted by her hand, Lilly was unable to stop Mitch from plunging the spear into her leg, right through her knee. Lilly let out the loudest cry yet as she collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain, now crippled. Minnie and Clementine rushed over to Mitch, relieved to see he was still alive.

"Please tell me you're okay," Minnie said with concerned eyes, her caring nature managing to show through.

"Yeah, I'll be fine," Mitch assured her, then looking to Lilly, who had now had injuries all over her body. "She won't."

Minnie shifted her gaze to Lilly now, her hateful glare returning. For the first time, Lilly looked like she realized she wasn't going to make it out of this. That she was going to die. She looked afraid.

"No, she won't," Minnie said, raising Abel's shotgun towards her. "This is what you deserve."

Minnie was going to kill her, and Mitch was going to let her. She was going to make Lilly suffer the way she suffered. Clementine had a decision to make, and she had to make it fast.

Clementine quickly determined she couldn't let Minnie do this. Not in the state she was in. She was already on the brink of losing her mind, as well as losing sight of who she was. If she did this, Clementine knew that the old Minnie might disappear forever. She couldn't let that happen. Not when she was only just getting better.

"Stop!" Clementine said to Minnie, lowering her arm for her. "Minnie, you can't do this."

Minerva looked to Clementine with a confused stare. "What?"

"Of course she can. Shoot her Minnie," Mitch said.

"Clementine, I thought you were on board with this," Minnie said, now looking quite irritated.

"You're right, she does have to die, but not like this. It shouldn't be you."

"What?" Minerva asked, now looking almost offended. "Well then who should it be? You?"

Clementine breathed in, "Yes, I should do it."

Minerva looked mad, enraged even. "I don't care how long you've known her, she's taken more from me than she ever took from you!"

"I know, Minnie, I know. You deserve it more. But you shouldn't be doing this to yourself, you're already so fucked up Minnie."

Well they were arguing, Mitch picked the knife up the ground so Lilly wouldn't get any ideas. Lilly couldn't go anywhere, and she sure as hell couldn't fight anymore. All she could do was watch in desperate despair as they figured out what to do with her. Either way, this was the end of the road. It was just a matter of how much pain she would suffer before she went out.

"You think I can't handle it? You think you can?" Minerva advanced, growing more aggressive.

"Minnie, I've seen people like you before, okay?" Clementine tried to explain, thinking back to Kenny. "They're good people, but they're fucked up. You're on the verge of that. You're on the verge of breaking. I look at you and I can see it, I've seen it before!"

"This isn't your call," Mitch said, crossing his arms. "Just let her do it."

"No, she can't! She can't do this to herself!"

Minerva looked conflicted.

"Minnie, I've been in a situation like this before. This guy named Kenny, he —."

"Kenny," Lilly suddenly said through her pants, looking to Clementine. "How is Kenny?"

"Fuck you," Clementine said, clenching her fists. "You don't say shit about Kenny." She turned back to Minerva now.

"If you speak again, I'm blowing your foot off," Minerva made clear.

"Kenny was a good guy," Clementine continued. "But he started to lose himself. He did the same thing you're about to do, and I watched him do it. He was never the same after that. I still loved him, but he was never the same! After that it, it just got worse for him! I don't to watch that again. I don't want that to be you. Let me do this for you. I can deal with it. You? Right now? I don't think you can. I know this is really personal to you, and at the end of the day, it's your call, but I'm asking you not to do this. Please," Clementine pleaded, hoping Minnie would see things her way.

Minnie bit her lip, and Clementine could tell tears were coming on. "But, but she killed Ruby! My sister is dead! Because of her! She took me from my home! She took everything from me!"

"No, she didn't. Not everything," Clementine argued, realizing she was getting somewhere. "You still have us, you still have Tenn. Think about Tenn, Minnie. You think he'd want you to do this?"

Minnie seemed to recoil at the mention of her brother, now looking even more uncertain.

"You think he would want you to be this? I don't know you very well, Minnie, but I know this isn't you. Just let me end it, I'll make it fast."

Minnie brought her hand to her face, trying to contain her oncoming sobs. "Damn it," she said, not knowing what to do.

Minnie looked over to Lilly, staring back at her with desperate, fearful eyes. She looked pathetic. Humiliated. A woman defeated. Maybe, that was enough. Minnie looked to Clementine, who was waiting anxiously for a reply.

"Just finish it," Minnie said, turning away.

She walked over to stand next to Mitch. If she wasn't going to do it herself, she was definitely going to watch.

Clementine breathed a sigh of relief, and turn to face Lilly herself, rifle in hand. Lilly laughed nervously, shaking her head.

"After all this shit, it's you. Fucking Clementine. Lee's little girl. What the fuck."

"Shut up, Lilly. Don't say his name," Clementine demanded, raising her rifle.

This wouldn't be easy, but it was something that needed to be done. For everyone.

"Or what? You gonna let your little friend hack me apart like she did Abel? Or leave me here to die like Kenny and Lee? I'm dead anyway, I'll never make it out of the woods like this," Lilly admitted, knowing that whatever way this went, she wasn't leaving there alive.

"No," Clementine said, standing firm. "This ends right here, with me and you. Do you have anything you wanna say?"

Lilly still couldn't believe this was happening. Here she was again, alone. In the woods. Only this time she wouldn't be making it out. She couldn't help but think back on that night.

"Come on, get in! We're leaving this crazy bitch!"

"She couldn't be trusted Lee, I swear. Please."

"You're not coming with us."

"I'll die out here!"

"I don't care."

Just like then, she had done this to herself. She had a chance to get past it and become stronger, but instead she withered and weakened. She wasn't strong enough. She always knew it.

She looked up to Clementine, who was waiting for her last words.

"Are any of them still alive?" Lilly asked Clementine, wanting to know before she died.

Clementine knew right away what she meant. She wasn't sure if Lilly deserved to know.

"Kenny, maybe. He was when I last saw him. That was a long time ago, though." 

"Of course it would be fucking Kenny," Lilly said, a clear disdain still present in her voice. "Son of a bitch." 

Clementine noticeably grimaced as she insulted Kenny. He may have killed Lilly's father, but she had forsaken any sympathy for that act long ago. That was a lifetime and countless sins ago. 

"You know Lilly, I remember your dad. He was an asshole, but he'd be ashamed to see what you've turned into. Look at you. You're a mess."

Lilly just glared at Clementine in silence, the words visibly stinging her. However, she made no argument. 

"You're just like him," she spat as she sat up as best she could. 

"Who?" 

"You know who I mean," Lilly said back. "What my dad would've thought doesn't fucking matter. He's dead. Now I'm gonna die, and soon you're gonna die. And everyone you know's gonna die. Again. And nothing's fucking changed. And that's just the way it is."

Clementine's glare just intensified, but she held back her anger as best she could. She couldn't let herself lose her temper. Not after everything she had just said to Minnie. 

"Anything else?" Clementine asked, seething. 

Lilly shook her head. She was ready for this to end. "Just do what you're gonna do."

Clementine inhaled, trying in vain to calm her nerves. As much as Lilly had this coming, nothing about this was easy. Lilly used to be her friend. Lilly had once protected her with Kenny and Lee. Now she was an enemy. Now she had to die. Lilly didn't close her eyes. She looked right at Clementine. She'd rather see it coming. She had accepted it. This was harder than Clementine thought. Minnie couldn't wait any longer.

"Do it!"

Clementine fired almost on accident, Minnie's sudden shout startling her. Lilly's head jerked back, a bullet hole in her temple. She slumped on her side, her eyes still open, blood leaking out from the fatal wound, staining the ground red. Clementine just stared at her, unable to look away from the act she had just committed. To say Clementine looked conflicted wouldn't be saying enough. She didn't know how to feel, if she was being honest. She thought this would be different. She thought this would feel different. She had chosen to bear the weight of Lilly’s execution, freeing Minnie from any further self-destruction. She hoped it would be worth it. 

"That's a better death than that evil cunt deserved," Mitch said, looking disappointed. "But she's fucking dead, so that's pretty good."

Clementine turned, looking to Minnie. She was trying to calm herself down, but was having little success. She just kept staring at Lilly's corpse. Wanting more. She held it back.

"Minnie?" Clementine asked for her thoughts.

Minnie stared at Lilly for a few more seconds, before eventually looking up to Clementine with a satisfied nod.

"She's dead. It's done. It's over. Let's go." Minnie said as she broke away, heading in the direction of the fishing shack. "We're not done yet. We still have to get Ruby." 

Mitch took Lilly's gun from the grass and followed after her. Minnie was right. There was still more to do. They had to get Ruby, and break the news to everyone. That would be awful. They had another funeral to look forward to.

Ruby's funeral.

The bright side was they had given more than they got. Abel and Lilly were dead, and Clementine doubted the raiders would come looking for them after this, if they even managed to stay together at all now that Lilly was dead. Clementine glanced at Lilly one last time, before forcing herself away from the scene. She couldn't look any longer. She went after Mitch and Minnie, leaving Lilly to lie alone.


 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKdPffpsPKI 

The gender is wrong since this is Clementine, but whatever. It still works amazingly. Also I took out the "My Love" part, since you know, Minnie is not her love. Violet is. 

Oooh, the years burn, burn, burn . . . 

I used to be a little boy

So old in my shoes

What I choose is my voice

What's a boy supposed to do? 

The killer in me is the killer in you

I send this smile over to you

The killer in me is the killer in you

I send this smile over to you

The killer in me is the killer in you

I send this smile over to you

The killer in me is the killer in you

I send this smile over to you

Chapter Text

Clementine soon realized that even if she wasn't sure this was a good idea, it wasn't her call. Lilly had taken so much from Minnie before, and now she had taken even more. If anyone deserved this, it was Minnie. Clementine had been in a situation like this before. She had watched when Kenny brutalized Carver's face, and she would stay for this too. Lilly had this coming. It was brutal justice, but justice nonetheless.

"Do what you want, Minnie. It's your decision."

"What? You're just gonna let her do this Clementine?" Lilly asked in disbelief.

"Shut up, Lilly. Don't talk to me like we're friends. You fucked that up years ago when you shot Carley in the face."

"You fuck . . ." Lilly, cursed desperately, realizing she was about to be on the wrong end of a very painful punishment. "Came all this way, did all that shit, just to die like this, to a bunch of stupid fucking kids."

"You should have just left me alone," Minnie said. "You should've just stayed away."

"No," Lilly spat, turning to Minnie with a spiteful glare. "What I should've done was killed you, a long fucking time ago. I should've known that as soon as your stupid fucking sister died, you'd be a fucking liability," Lilly got out, panting hard.

"Shut her the fuck up Minnie!" Mitch yelled.

"Fuck you, and fuck your sister," Lilly continued her rant to Minnie, who was growing more and more enraged with each word Lilly spoke. She wouldn't be able to take much more. Lilly already had nothing to lose, so she wanted to make it as hurtful for Minnie as possible. "You cried for a whole fucking week, you fucking weakling. For what? Your fucking sister? She wasn't worth shit anyway. I should've put you down right then, put you out of your fucking misery! Now look at you . . . you're a mess."

Clementine recoiled a bit at Lilly's choice of words. This was feeling all too familiar.

"Just do it already, Minnie," Clementine found herself saying, "I'm tired of listening to her talk."

"Fuck you, Clementine," Lilly said, now turning to her.

Clementine just glared back, feeling no sympathy for the shell of the woman she used to know.

"You did this to yourself, Lilly. You've had this coming a long fucking time."

"After all that shit we were through together," Lilly shook her head, spitting venom. "To think I went easy on you, you ungrateful little bit—."

Minerva cut Lilly off by blowing off half her foot with Abel's shotgun. She was done listening. Mitch and Clementine both recoiled a bit at the sudden vicious act, while Lilly screamed like she had never screamed in her life.

"Jesus fucking Christ!" Lilly howled, unbearable agony overwhelming her already broken body. Lilly looked at her mutilated limb in pure horror, clutching it as tightly as she could, but she knew it was in vain. "You fucking cunt! Just fucking kill me!"

Minerva silenced Lilly with a vicious whip across the face with Abel's shotgun. Lilly spun over on her side, spitting out blood. She just wished it to be over already. Minerva couldn't seem to get enough. She just looked angrier than ever. She still wanted more.

"Jesus, Minnie," Clementine said, a little unnerved.

Clementine had watched dozens of people torn apart limb from limb by walkers, so she didn't know why this was making her squirm. Maybe it was because she used to know Lilly, back when she wasn't this. Or maybe it was because of who was committing the savage act. Either way, sitting through this was proving harder than she expected.

"No, this is exactly she deserves," Mitch said, crossing his arms with a satisfied nod.

"Mitch," Minerva said suddenly, turning to him. "Can you hold her arm down? Please?" Minerva said politely, almost unnervingly so as she revealed Violet's cleaver once more.

"Fuck," Mitch said, realizing what Minerva intended, but he didn't need to think about it for very long. "Yeah, no problem," Mitch said as he approached.

"Oh god, what the fuck is this shit? You sick fucks!" Lilly screamed, even though she had done just as bad in her life and then some. She tried to fight it, but she was in no condition.

Mitch bent down and forced Lilly's arm down flat against the ground, as if she had a walker bite and they had to amputate. At this point, Lilly was far too weak to resist. She could only watch in horror as Minerva knelt down, no hesitation in her green eyes as she raised Violet's cleaver.

And brought it down hard.

Clementine winced a bit as Minerva cut deep, at least halfway through Lilly's arm, all the while Lilly was screaming in vain, at this point not even able to speak words. Minerva kept hacking, again and again, until Lilly's arm was completely severed. Mitch and Minerva, now covered in her blood, stood back up to look down on the ravaged raider, who was now quickly bleeding to death. Mitch tossed Lilly's dismembered arm aside.

"She won't be needing that."

Clementine got in the way of them now. This had gone on long enough.

"Alright guys, this has to end somewhere. You got her, okay? She's done," Clementine pleaded with them, wondering if she had tried to stop them after all. As much as she hated Lilly for what she had done, this was getting out of hand. "I know you hate her, but this is getting sick!"

Clementine heard Lilly groan one last time, before coughing up her blood in a violent, dying hack. Her head suddenly slumped to the ground with a thud, the life draining from her eyes. Her body had been through too much strain, and had finally given out. She was dead. Clementine looked almost relieved. It was over. It was an awful, painful death. Clementine couldn't say Lilly didn't deserve it, but enough was enough.

"Okay, okay she's dead. You got what you wanted," Clementine said to them. "I hope that made the both of you feel better."

A few seconds of silence passed before either of them answered. Clementine could see no trace of the girl she met almost a month ago in Minerva's eyes. Just hateful, albeit slowly calming intensity. Clementine hoped with all her heart that it would pass.

"It doesn't bring Ruby back, but it's what the bitch deserved," Mitch said, brushing the blood from his face.

"Yeah," Minerva said with a nod. "She got what she deserved, so yeah, I feel a little better. Thank you, I needed that. We both did."

Clementine wasn't sure if that news was comforting or disturbing. Actually, she was pretty sure it was the latter.

Minerva raised Abel's shotgun again, firing a shell into Lilly's skull without warning. Clementine jumped, now finding herself staring at a disfigured Lilly with half her face torn off by buckshot. Minerva had made sure Lilly wasn't coming back. Clementine almost felt bad for her, until she remembered what Lilly had done. Still, this had been hard to watch.

"Let's go," Minerva said, stepping away from the scene. "We still need to get Ruby."

Mitch took Lilly's gun and her knife from the grass and followed after his friend. Minnie was right. There was still more to do. They had to get Ruby, and break the news to everyone. That would be awful. They had another funeral to look forward to.

Ruby's funeral.

The bright side was they had given more than they got. Abel and Lilly were dead, and Clementine doubted the raiders would come looking for them after this, if they even managed to stay together at all now that Lilly was dead. Clementine glanced at Lilly one last time, before forcing herself away from the scene. She couldn't look any longer. She went after Mitch and Minnie, leaving Lilly to lie there alone.

Chapter Text

Ericson's was all but in a state of panic. Neither the hunting team nor the fishing team had returned on schedule, and they had heard multiple gunshots now echoing from the woods. Violet was getting worried, in fact, she was close to terrified. Both her girlfriend and her oldest friend were among the missing, and if they were gone for even a few more minutes, she would have to come looking for them. When the solemn trio of Mitch, Clementine, and Minnie were finally spotted, Violet was beside herself with relief.

Violet burst from the gate door, sprinting towards the three at top speed. She was barely able to contain herself. When she saw that Mitch was carrying a distinct, body-shaped figure wrapped in a tarp, her smile dropped almost in an instant. She stopped in front of her three friends, all that initial relief washed away by dread as she kept her eyes on the tarped figure. The fact that no one said anything said everything. No one even bothered with a greeting.

"Is that . . ." Violet said shakily, biting her lip. "Is that what I think it is?"

Without saying a word, Mitch slowly placed the covered figure on the ground, and revealed her bloody face.

"Oh fuck," the horrified Violet got out. "Fuck! Ruby!"

The distraught Violet edged a little closer to her dead friend. She didn't want to look, but she couldn't turn away either. Everything had been going so well, and just like that, they had lost another friend. The reality hit her like a bomb. Ruby was dead.

"What the fuck?" Violet said, trying to hold back tears. "What the fuck . . ."

"Violet, they came back, Abel and Lilly," Clementine started, coming right out with it. "They tried to take Minnie back. We saved her . . . but we couldn't save Ruby," Clementine confessed, trying to keep her own tears contained.

"Oh fucking God, I knew it. I knew they wouldn't just stay away," Violet turned, feeling a panic coming on. She held her hand to her face, trying to contain her somber emotions. As far as she knew, Ruby being dead could just be the start. "What the fuck do we do?"

"They're dead," Minnie suddenly said, causing Violet to snap to attention.

"What?" Violet asked, turning to her fully. It was around this time Violet finally realized Minnie was soaked head to toe in drying blood. "Minnie?"

"Abel and Lilly. They're both dead. We don't have to worry about them. Ever again." Minnie said in an unnervingly calm manner. It was as if she was so overwhelmed by all this trauma, for the moment she had gone numb. "I'm sorry, I need to go sit down," Minnie said as she approached Violet, now standing only a foot away from her distraught best friend. She revealed the weapon Violet had lent her, outstretching her hand so Violet could retrieve it from her grasp. "You can have your cleaver back."

Violet didn't even know how to react to Minnie's demeanor, noticing that her cleaver was covered in blood as well. Not knowing what else to do, she found herself shakily taking the weapon from Minnie's grasp, then looking into her bloody, jaded eyes with an unnerved stare. Minnie left her without another word, walking back towards the school where she'd be safe. For a few seconds, there was just an uncomfortable silence between the remaining three, as Violet tried to wrap her head around this.

"What the hell did she do?" Violet finally asked, staring at her returned weapon.

"After Ruby got shot, Minnie fucking lost it," Mitch said, finally speaking up. "She went ape shit on Abel. When we got there, there was nothing left of his skull. Minnie tore him apart. Never seen anything like it."

"What?" Violet asked with a disbelieving tone. "Minnie would never . . ."

"She's fucked up Vi, she lost herself," Clementine said as she watched Minnie head into the school alone. "She wanted to kill Lilly too. Painfully. I stopped her, and ended it quickly, but she wanted to do it."

"Jesus Christ," Violet said, a flood of feelings engulfing her once more. "That shit happened again? Fuck."

"I stopped her from messing herself up even more, I think," Clementine said, although she wasn't certain. "But if we ever wanna see the old Minnie again, we have to help her. Otherwise, you'll never see her again."

"God dammit, fucking Minnie," Violet said, now knowing what to do.

In the blink of an eye, a normal day had turned into a disaster. Ruby was dead, Minnie was a numbed, psychological mess, and now they had to break the news to everyone that they had lost another friend.

"Fuck! What the fuck am I gonna tell Aasim?" Violet asked herself, "What the fuck am I gonna tell anyone? I mean . . .fucking Ruby!"

"We'll tell them together, Vi. I won't let you do this alone."

Violet was silent for a few seconds, still trying to take this all in. All the while, Mitch and Clementine stared at her worriedly, hoping she'd be able to bear with all this new weight.

"Are you sure they're fucking dead?" Violet asked, turning to them. "Are you sure, that they're never coming back?"

"We killed Lilly and Abel. Without a strong leader, raiders tear themselves apart. They won't come looking for us again, Vi. They're done," Clementine said, trying comfort her.

"I hope you're fucking right, Clementine. I really do." Violet said, shaking her head in frustration. "Cause we can't do this shit again! We can't lose another kid!"

"I know! I know," Clementine replied, looking away. "I know this is fucked. It's always been fucked."

"Mitch, cover Ruby up. I don't want the others to see her like this," Violet said, still trying to get a hold of herself.

"Yeah, alright," Mitch nodded, covering Ruby's face once more.

"God Dammit, we're starting to run out of space in that graveyard," Violet said somberly, turning towards the school. It felt more far away than ever before, and at the same time part of her never wanted to get there. Doing this kind of thing never got easier.

Clementine and Mitch followed after Violet, bringing Ruby back home for her burial.


 

A few hours later, it was time for Ruby's funeral. There was no point in waiting for the next day. Ruby had to be put in the ground. It wasn't like they could just leave her around until whenever they got to it. The news had been devastating, and Violet thought it would have been better to just get it over with. It was all any of them could think about now anyway. Frankly, Violet was still in shock, and she imagined the others were too. It had just happened so suddenly. Things were going better than they had ever been with Clementine and Violet in charge, and for once they were doing more than just barely getting by. They had been lured into a false sense of security, and just when they felt most safe, Ruby had been robbed from them in a blink of an eye. The funerals of Marlon, Brody, and Omar were ones of mixed emotions. Ruby's had been nothing but painful, and Violet knew it would only get worse. The silver lining was that Abel and Lilly were dead, and even though that was very good news, it wasn't making her feel any better at the moment. Ruby could be a real handful, but she had always been a staple of their small community. Now there was just a gaping hole where her presence used to be, and Violet knew it wouldn't be filled anytime soon. There was no mistaking it, this one would be the hardest so far. It had come out of nowhere, and none of them were sure how to deal with it.

Here they were again, standing around a half dug hole that was just getting deeper, while one of their friends lied lifeless nearby. Digging the hole was Violet. She hadn't done any of the work the last time, so she had insisted upon it. Violet wasn't too tall, so when the hole got too deep she'd have to chuck the dirt over the edge, for she couldn't reach the top. Still, she was determined to go as far as she could, and no one was stupid or bold enough to come forward and tell her to stop. When Violet set her mind to something, there was no stopping her. Even if it was bad for her. Eventually, the hole was almost finished, but Violet was too exhausted to continue.

"Alright, Violet. You proved your fucking point," Mitch said, stepping forward and outstretching his hand so Violet could grab it. "Come on out of there, I'll finish up."

The panting Violet said nothing. She wanted to finish, but the task had proved too much for one person all at once.

"Fuck," Violet cursed, trying to catch her breath. "You sure you can, with your arm?" Violet asked, remembering his deep gash.

"Clementine already stitched it up, I'll be fine. Don't worry about me."

"Whatever," Violet said with a sigh. 

Violet reached up, grabbing Mitch's hand. Mitch pulled her out, now face to face with the somber faces of the school, all except for Minnie, who still hadn't pulled herself together to come out yet. Minnie had broken down from a numb state into a sobbing mess, her instability becoming more and more apparent. Mitch jumped in the whole to finish what Violet had started, while Clementine stepped forward to see if her girlfriend was okay. Violet looked exhausted.

"Vi?"

"I'm fine," Violet assured her, looking towards the school, soon thinking about her distraught best friend. "Shit . . . Louis?" Violet said while panting, turning to her friend. "Could you, do me a big favor? Could you go get Minnie? I'd do it myself, but as much as I hate to admit, I think she'd rather see you right now than me, and I think Tenn's too upset himself," she said, looking over to the silent, distraught boy, who gave no reply. "Plus, I'm not sure if I can make it up there right now," Violet explained as she sat down, taking a break.

"Oh," Louis said, a bit surprised. "Yeah, sure. I'll go get Minnesota."

"What?" Violet asked, suddenly turning to him with a disbelieving stare.

"Minnesota. You know, 'cause her brother's Tennessee?" Louis grinned as he walked by her.

"I, I hate you." Violet got out in-between breaths. "I fucking hate you."

Louis just chuckled as he headed towards the school.

"I think it's pretty clever." Clementine said with an honest shrug.

Violet just gave a silent look, a look that said "Not right now, Clementine."

"Sorry."

"Fuck this shit," Violet said as she shook her head. "This shit's so fuckin' heavy."

Violet looked over to Aasim, who had been worryingly silent the whole time. There was no way he was okay. Violet knew he had a crush on Ruby, and now she was gone. She didn't think Aasim ever got around to telling her either. Yet one more thing Violet had to be concerned about.


 

Louis took a few breaths as he neared Minerva's door. He knew she was really upset, and although she found him to be very funny, he would have to be very careful in this situation. Minnie was in a delicate state, and saying the wrong thing could easily just make her feel even worse. He knocked gently on the door. He could hear her sobbing on the other side

"Violet?" came Minnie's guess, sounding like she was trying to get herself together.

"No, it's Louis. It's time for the funeral, Minnie."

"Louis? Uh," Minnie stumbled, seemingly surprised. "Give me a minute, okay? I'll be right out."

"Yeah, sure," Louis said back.

It was a few minutes before Minnie was ready. Louis wasn't sure if she needed to get dressed or if she was just that much of a wreck, but it wasn't a comfortable wait. He spent most of it being worried about her. If anyone deserved a break at this point, it was Minnie, but she just couldn't seem to get one. Every time things seemed to be looking up for her, something would come along and break her back down again. She had made it back to Ericson's just so Violet could break her heart, and she had almost gotten over it just to watch her friend die. Minnie had watched countless people die, as they all had, but few were as close as Ruby. He desperately wanted to help her, but at this point he wasn't sure how. Stupid jokes couldn't fix everything. Minnie was a strong girl, if she wasn't she wouldn't have made it this far, but everyone has a breaking a point. When Minnie's door finally opened, Louis was almost startled.

"Hey Louis, I'm sorry to make you wait," Minnie sniffled, brushing the remaining tears from her eyes. She had changed out of her bloodstained clothes and washed herself clean. The gash on her face from where Lilly hit her now very visible. Louis wasn't about to ask how her clothes had gotten quite so bloody, at least not yet.

"Don't worry about it Minnie, we all get it," Louis assured her.

"No, I took too long," Minnie said, closing her door and heading down the hall. "The world can't wait on one crying girl."

As the two walked down the hall in relative silence, for once Louis didn't seem to know what to say. Eventually, Minnie spoke up for him.

"Louis? How do you do it?"

"Do what?" Louis asked curiously as they reached the stairs.

"How do you keep up this attitude of yours? You're always so upbeat, even though your best friend is dead. I tried, I really did, but I just can't do it," Minnie admitted.

"I definitely had my moments, Minnie. Trust me on that," Louis said with a sigh, remembering how unfair he had been to AJ and Clementine.

"But here you are, the same old you. The same you you've always been, and I just can't do that. I keep on waiting for things to get better, but they don't. Every time I think they are, something else comes and ruins everything. What's your secret, Louis?'

"Well, I mean," Louis started, wondering if he should be honest with her or not. He finally decided on yes. "You just said it yourself, you're waiting for things to get better, but they won't. The only good things in this shitty world are the ones you make, Minnie," he explained as they stepped off the last stair. "You can't wait for a better tomorrow, cause you don't even know if there will be a tomorrow. The only thing we're guaranteed is this moment. Right now. So you just gotta . . . go for it. That's the best way I can explain it. That's how I keep myself going."

Minnie stopped in her tracks, as if coming to a revelation a long time coming. She just stood there in silence, looking away, thinking about what Louis had just told her. She had been waiting for the right moment to tell him everything she felt, but maybe there was no right moment. Maybe she should just go for it.

"Minnie?" Louis said, noticing she had stopped. "You okay?"

"Louis . . . I think you're right," Minnie said earnestly, looking to him now. "I'm tired of being hurt, and I'm tired of waiting for things to get better. I'm tired of waiting for the perfect time."

"Time for what?" Louis asked, suddenly lost.

Minnie took a breath and came closer, until her face was only inches away from Louis's. Minnie was quite tall for a female, so they stood at close to the same height.

"Louis, this isn't at all how I planned on doing this, and it's certainly not romantic, but I don't want to wait any longer. I have a crush on you, Louis. A big one," Minnie said fearlessly.

Louis visibly recoiled. Minnie had come right out with it.

"I know I'm really messed up right now, but this isn't just the grief talking, Louis. I swear. I'm not totally over Violet, but I'm almost there, I promise! I just don't wanna be alone anymore. I can't get through this on my own."

"Uh, wow," Louis said, taking a step back for a moment to catch a breath. "Well, you really took the advice to heart, huh?" Louis got out, feeling lightheaded.

"Louis?" Minnie asked, now looking quite nervous. She had totally thrown herself out there, and all she could do now was wait for his response with baited breath.

"I mean, holy shit. You couldn't have waited until after the funeral?"

"Oh," Minnie said, turning away. "I'm sorry, I guess I got really caught up in the moment," Minnie said, now feeling like a fool. "Maybe I should have thought this through."

"I mean, you've already said it."

"Yeah, I did. So what are we doing here, Louis?"

Louis let out a nervous laugh, "Wow, Minerva has a crush on me. Never gonna let Violet live this down."

Minnie couldn't help but giggle, "She said you wouldn't."

"Oh yeah, she's totally gonna catch hell for this."

"Yeah," Minnie smiled, hoping this was going where she thought it was. "It'd be even worse for her if you were my boyfriend."

Louis chuckled a bit, still quite a bit overwhelmed. "Well, if there's one thing I like doing, it's pissing off Violet, and . . ." Louis trailed off, a visible smile remaining.

"And?"

"And I like you even more, so . . . there," Louis said with a playful shrug.

Minnie breathed a sigh of relief, "Well thank God for that," she said as she took his hand in hers, not even trying to hide her intense blushing, for Louis was as well.

In a day that had been nothing but truly awful so far, at least one good thing had come from it. She knew Ruby would have wanted her to be happy, but still, she couldn't help but feel terrible for doing this during her funeral. Little did they know, another couple had done something quite similar.

"Well, I would kiss you, but I already feel bad enough, and it's not really a good time. I mean, we're supposed to be at Ruby's funeral," Minnie remembered, her smile vanishing.

Louis smiled, "Violet and Clementine got together right before the raider attack. I think they might just have us beat there."

That managed to get an amused smile from Minnie, "Still, I don't want to keep them waiting anymore, but uh, definitely later, okay?" Minnie said as she stepped towards the front door.

Louis just shrugged before following after her, "Well, I guess I've waited this long. I can wait a bit longer."

Chapter Text

Ruby's funeral had been a miserable, draining experience for everyone. They had placed her grave right next to Ms. Martin's, for it seemed only appropriate. Minnie only managed to keep it together because Louis was by her side the whole time. Violet noticed how close they were standing to each other pretty quickly, and noticed immediately when she grabbed his hand from time to time during the proceedings. She didn't say anything at the time, but it became pretty apparent they had gotten together, and as painful as the funeral had been, it gave Violet some happiness to know that Minnie had officially found someone else. After the funeral, the kids of the school were feeling dispirited and dejected, but as always they would have to push on. Violet found Clementine sitting on the front steps with AJ.

"So uh, I guess we have some guns now huh?" Violet asked Clementine, who still had the rifle slung over her shoulder.

"Yeah, four in all," Clementine said. "Two rifles, a shotgun, and a revolver."

"Shit, what should we do? Should we play it like finders keepers? I mean, you got em', that's how we usually do things." Violet said, crossing her arms.

"No," Clementine shook her head. "Guns are a whole different story. Everyone should learn to use them, and we should put them away somewhere safe until we need them."

"But I had a gun when we got here," AJ protested, not seeing the difference.

"Sorry kiddo, things aren't the same as they were back then. We gotta think about the whole group now," Clementine told him, for AJ had no experience with such things.

"Well, I think you, Minnie and AJ are the only ones who know how to use them, so the rest of us . . ." Violet started with a sigh.

"Need to learn," Clementine finished with a slight smile.

"Great," Violet huffed, not liking the idea of feeling like an amateur. However, the thought of being taught how to shoot by her girlfriend made her smile at least a little. "We'll save that for later though, now's definitely not the time. For now, I guess we could put them in the office," Violet proposed.

"Alright," Clementine said, rising up. "I'll go gather them all. Minnie has the shotgun and the revolver, I think Mitch still has Lilly's rifle."

"Yeah, maybe leaving Mitch with a loaded rifle wasn't the best idea?" Violet asking, giving her a snide smile.

"I'll go get it now," Clementine shrugged.

"I'll go talk to Minnie, I have to anyway. I have to talk to her about her new boyfriend." Violet said with a bit of a sigh, looking over to the two at the nearby picnic table, enjoying each other's company.

"You noticed that too, huh?" Clementine smirked.

"How could I not?" Violet said, heading off in their direction. "I'll talk to you later, Clem."

"Bye," replied Clementine, going to find Mitch.

Violet approached the two new lovebirds, who were constantly giggling at every word the other spoke. Part of Violet found it comforting, but another part of her felt sick to her stomach.

"Hey, guys," Violet said, catching both of their attention.

"Oh, hey Vi," Minnie said, a smile still on her face, despite the grim circumstances.

"So, I guess you guys are officially a thing now?" Violet asked, just making sure.

"Yeah, I guess so," Minnie shrugged, trying in vain to hide her happiness over the way things turned out, although she was trying to focus on the positives.

None of them were okay, and they wouldn't be for a while. They had all watched friends go, but it was never easy. All they could do was try to distract themselves from the pain, and Minnie was doing just that.

"We're gathering up all the firearms you, Clementine, and Mitch got while you went on your little 'revenge hunt,' which was pretty fuckin' cool of you, I gotta say. I'm glad that bitch is dead."

"So am I," Minnie agreed, not caring how horrible that sounded. "They deserved it, her and Abel both. Speaking of Abel," Minnie sighed, revealing his shotgun she had retrieved from his corpse. "The last thing I want is to be reminded of that jerk, so please, take it," Minnie said, making sure the shotgun was unloaded before handing it to Violet, giving her the ammo in her other hand. "But uh, I really wanna keep the revolver, if that's okay. I feel safer with it."

"Uhhh," Violet stumbled, giving her a worried stare.

Violet wasn't quite sure what to do. On one hand, she definitely wanted Minnie to take whatever measures she had to in order to feel safer, but on the other, she was still an emotionally recovering mess, made better only by the fact she just got a new boyfriend. It's not that Violet didn't trust Minnie, and she wasn't expecting her to do anything stupid like shoot herself either, but she still wasn't sure this was a good idea. Finally, she realized maybe she shouldn't be making the decision on her own. She did have a co-leader after all, who just happened to be her girlfriend.

"Minnie, I'll have to talk to Clementine about that, okay? For now you can hold onto it, but I might have to come back for it," Violet said, trying to sound as firm but fair as possible.

"Alright," Minnie said, looking away. "I guess I can't be mad at you for being worried, after what I did."

"Yeah, I need to talk to you about that, actually. And something else," she added, looking over to Louis, who had been uncharacteristically silent so far.

"What? Don't tell me you don't 'approve' or some shit," Louis said with a mocking stare.

"No, in fact I wanted this," Violet said honestly, "but she is my best friend, Louis. So, could you give us a second?"

"Yeah, sure," Louis shrugged, not seeming to have a problem with it.

"Come on," Violet said to Minnie, bringing her away over to the steps.

Minnie took a seat on the stairs, and Violet sat next to her, although she understandably kept a bit of distance.

"So did you tell him, or did he tell you?" Violet asked, getting right to it.

"I told him, I couldn't wait anymore," Minnie said back.

"Great," Violet huffed, looking to Louis. "That'll be sure to add to his ego."

"Yeah, I think he's pretty eager to rub it in your face. Really hard," Minnie said, unable to hold a wide smile back.

"Yeah, and I bet you'll enjoy every grueling second of it," Violet said, shaking her head. "Still, this is really good, and I'm not gonna give you some stupid 'if he hurts you I'll kill him' shit, because I know you can handle yourself, but please don't rush shit with him, okay? You both have a tendency to get carried away, and the last thing you need right now is to get hurt again, Minnie."

"I know, I'll be careful, Vi," Minnie said with a reassuring nod.

Violet sighed, wishing she could stop worrying, but she couldn't. Minnie didn't have Ruby to look after her anymore, but the last thing she wanted to do was remind her of that.

"Alright, we're not done yet, though. About what you did to Abel, Minnie. I mean, the prick deserved it, for sure, but—."

"I know, Vi. I know," Minnie said, her smile dropping. "I'm working on it, I promise. I mean, I really don't wanna talk about that moment right now, or ever, actually, but I went crazy like that only because that . . ." Minnie paused, beginning to seethe.

Violet had seen Minnie like this before. She wanted to curse, but her nature was stopping herself. Violet decided that holding in her anger was the worst thing to do right now.

"Just say it, it's okay," Violet assured her friend.

Minnie took a breath, "That bitch shot Ruby," she said, finally letting her anger out just a bit. "I couldn't take that, I just couldn't. That girl came out, but I got her under control now."

Violet had noticed a few times now that Minnie kept on referring to her other side as a different person, and she supposed that was appropriate enough. She certainly was nothing like the Minnie she was talking to now.

"I'm gonna be okay, Vi, I know I will. It'll be a lot easier now that I have Louis," Minnie said with confidence.

"I hope you're right, Minnie. I really want you to be okay, but I'm gonna trust you," Violet said with a comforting smile, or as close as she could get, anyway.

"Thanks Vi," Minnie said, returning the smile. "I still need you, too."

"Yeah, I know," Violet replied, rising up from the steps. "Well, I guess that's enough," she said, heading back over to Louis with Minnie following.

Violet took a deep breath. She wasn't done yet.

"Okay, now you," she said, pointing to Louis.

"Huh?" Louis asked with a confused face.

"Huh?" asked Minnie as well.

"I wanna make sure you don't fuck this up," Violet made clear. "This isn't one of your dumb games, Louis, and I know for sure you've never had a girlfriend before."

Louis rolled his eyes, but conceded. "Okay, fine," Louis said, walking away with Violet, giving Minnie an uncertain look.

Minnie looked after them with a rather worried stare. Violet was really serious about this. She hoped Violet would be able to contain herself, and even more that Louis wouldn't say anything stupid.

Louis took a seat on the steps, but this time Violet kept standing. She sighed, crossing her arms as she tried to come out with a good way to say this. She didn't want Louis to get the feeling she was talking down to him, but she wanted to make sure he took this seriously. Minnie's feelings were not a game.

"Louis, you know how serious this is, don't you? Now that you're her boyfriend, you're gonna be the one she turns to the most. Even more than me."

"Yeah, I know, but how do you feel about that?" Louis asked with a smirk.

"Don't get me started," Violet eyed him, deciding to put that aside for now. "You've got a serious responsibility here now, Louis. Minnie has a lot of baggage."

"I know she does," Louis said, a bit more seriously now.

"Okay," Violet said, relieved that Louis didn't seem like he was joking around. "It's not that I don't trust you or anything, but I want you to make me a promise. I want you to promise me that if she ever needs your help, you're not gonna run off to play your damn piano or some other stupid shit. Minnie's strong, but she's in a delicate state right now."

"I know, okay?" Louis repeated, "I promise."

Violet just studied him for a bit. Louis always had trouble taking things seriously, but he seemed to acknowledge that this was no joke. "Okay," she finally said, letting her arms fall to her side. She finally joined Louis at his side, sitting next to him on the steps. "So, you really like her, huh?" Violet asked with a genuine smile.

"Yeah, I do. She's funny, she's sweet, she's—."

"Really hot," Violet added with a grin, for she figured Louis might be hesitant to say it himself.

Louis shot her a look, wondering if she was setting him up for something.

"I mean, she is," Violet said honestly.

Louis chuckled, a bit caught off guard, but not too much, considering it was Violet.

"Yeah, that too."

"Honestly, I think she's way out of you league, but maybe I'm not the best judge," Violet shrugged.

"Uhhh, I'm more in her league than you were," Louis shot back.

Violet shook her head with a smile, "Just get over there and be with her, I'm done with you," Violet said as she rose from the stairs.

"Don't have to tell me twice," Louis said, happy to rejoin his new girlfriend at the picnic table, while Violet went looking for Clementine.


 

While Violet was busy talking to Louis and Minnie, Clementine had to find Mitch and get that rifle back. AJ had gone to see if he could cheer up Tennessee, and Clementine let him, even though she doubted he'd have much luck. Clementine should have taken that rifle away the moment they got back to the school, but it had slipped her mind. She didn't have to look very long, for she found him sitting on the steps of the grand staircase, looking troubled again. The rifle was slung over his back.

"Hey Mitch," Clementine said, noticing his sad state. It wasn't surprising, given the circumstances.

"Hey," he replied simply, not looking at her.

"Uh, listen, I'm gonna need that rifle back, alright? We've decided to put them away for now. We'll teach everyone how to use them later," Clementine explained.

"Here, take the damn thing," Mitch said, handing it over with no protest.

Clementine was a bit surprised he handed it over so easily, as he had enforced the unsaid "finder's keeper's" law before, but it was the gun Lilly had used to end Ruby's life, so maybe he hated being reminded of it.

Clementine took the rifle from his grasp, looking at Mitch worryingly. The situation had affected Clementine as well, in fact, she couldn't possibly know how much this would come back to haunt her. At the moment, however, Mitch looked like he needed help.

"How're you feeling?" Clementine asked, knowing it sounded like a stupid question.

"Like shit," Mitch replied honestly. "This one sucks, Clem. This one really fucking sucks."

"I know," Clementine empathized, sitting down next to him. "Ruby deserved better."

"Of course she did, but Lilly didn't. And you gave her a quick death, anyway," Mitch said, his tone showing his irritation.

"Mitch, I know that you hated her, but—."

"Just shut up, Clementine," Mitch said firmly, "I don't wanna fuckin' hear it."

Clementine stayed silent, not knowing what to say to him. Mitch was a hard case for sure, and he very rarely opened up. That morning in the graveyard when Minnie returned was the most Clementine had ever gotten from him, and she hadn't got anything since.

"You're still here," Mitch said, noticing she hadn't left him.

"Yeah, I am," Clementine said, "I know you're hurting here, Mitch. I wanna help."

"How could you fucking help right now?" Mitch asked, looking to her for the first time.

"I don't know," Clementine admitted.

"No, you don't, so stop acting like you've got all the fucking answers."

"I never said that I do," Clementine said, squinting a bit in irritation herself now.

"You sure fuckin' act like it," Mitch said back. "There's not shit you can do, Clem. Ruby's dead, and I'm still here. Another friend's dead, and I'm still fuckin' here, and I can't stand it anymore."

"What?" Clementine asked, noticing she might be getting somewhere.

"She couldn't have just killed me," Mitch said, almost ignoring Clementine's question. "She couldn't have just fucking killed me."

"Jesus Christ, Mitch. You are trying to get yourself killed!" Clementine yelled, rising up from the stairs, both concerned and angered.

"So what if I am? I'm not who you should be worried about right now, it's Minnie that—."

"Minnie's not the fucking concern here, Mitch," Clementine cut him off, startling him a bit. "Right now, you're the only thing on my mind! I knew that trying to take on Lilly by yourself was crazy, but I didn't say anything, now I am. We just lost Ruby, Mitch. We don't need you trying to get yourself killed!"

"It's none of your fucking business," Mitch said, looking away.

"Of course it's my fucking business! I'm your fucking friend! And so are they! You might not give a shit about your life, but we do!" Clementine yelled at him, for it seemed to be the only way to get through to him. "We don't want you to die!"

Mitch wasn't saying anything, but Clementine could tell she was getting somewhere. She wasn't really sure what to say to him, only that she had to say something.

"Mitch, look at me!" she demanded. When he didn't, she repeated herself. "Look at me!"

Finally, Mitch looked up to her, although reluctantly. He certainly hadn't expected this, and Clementine had a feeling he wouldn't stick around much longer. Whatever words she chose, she had to choose them carefully.

"I know this world is shit, Mitch, but trying to throw your life away isn't the answer! There's a difference between not being afraid to die, and not caring if you die, and you right now you don't fucking care!"

"Why should I?" Mitch shot back, rising from the stairs as well. Clementine could feel that he was about to break, for he was already shedding a few tears, but maybe that would good for him. He had been bottling himself up the whole time. "Everything's fucked! This time it was Ruby, next time it could be you, or Vi, or fucking Louis."

"There isn't gonna be a next time! Those raiders aren't coming back."

"Of course there's gonna be a fucking next time!" Mitch yelled, pushing Clementine away. "There's always a fucking next time. Everyone always dies, Clementine! Eventually, everyone dies! I thought I saved everyone with that grenade, and Omar still fucking died. We thought we were safe, that they wouldn't come back, but then Ruby fucking dies! It never ends! Eventually, it's gonna be me, and I just want to fucking get it over with! But this fucked up world won't let me!"

Clementine cringed a bit, for Lilly's last words were now ringing through her head.

"Now I'm gonna die, and soon you're gonna die. And everyone you know's gonna die. And nothing's fucking changed. And that's just how it is."

She had a feeling this was going to hurt, but she knew this was an important moment for Mitch. She had to let him know where this path was going to lead him. If he stopped caring, he'd become just like her.

"You sound just like Lilly right now!" she said fearlessly.

At first, what Clementine thought would happen happened just as she imagined it. Mitch's eyes flared at the accusation, and he raised his fist in the air. Clementine just let it come, closing her eyes and bracing herself for the strike. When it didn't come, she opened her eyes again in a confused stare. Mitch was fuming, and still hadn't lowered his fist. He was shaking violently, like a bomb ready to explode.

"Fuck!" Mitch yelled, throwing his arm down. "Fuck!" he picked up a nearby chair and hurled it as hard as he could it against the wall, smashing the fragile structure into pieces.

Clementine jumped in a shock. For some reason, Mitch had chosen to take his anger out on something else.

Mitch was still exuding rage, "I hate you right now," he said to Clementine honestly. "All I wanna do is kick your teeth in. But you're right," Mitch finally admitted, shocking Clementine even more. "You're fucking right, okay? I sound exactly like that cunt."

Clementine wasn't sure what to do now. She knew she had gotten somewhere, but she wasn't sure where. She just knew she had rattled him hard. She had got him thinking. He just stood there, swearing and sweating.

"Fuck," Mitch repeated for what had to be the tenth time.

"Mitch?" Clementine asked, at the risk of being punched for real this time.

"Go away, Clementine. I need to be alone," Mitch made clear. "If you keep pissing me off, I'm gonna hurt you for real, and I'm gonna regret it later, so just piss off," he said, turning away.

Clementine got the message, and walked away from him without another word. Hopefully she had done some good. Clementine was always spending so much of her time trying to help others, she hardly ever thought about herself it seemed. She was tough, but she wasn't impenetrable. She couldn't hold up forever, and sooner or later, all this heaviness was going to come back around. And it would hit hard. She was always so focused on everyone else, she would never see it coming. And it was coming.

As Clementine headed back towards the front door, she spotted Violet enter through the same way. She arrived just in time to watch Mitch storm up the stairs, noticeably upset, even from where she was standing.

"Did you say something to Mitch?" Violet asked, not bothering with a hello.

"Yeah, but he needed it."

"I bet, I just hope he doesn't do anything too destructive," Violet said with a sigh.

"Honestly, I'd rather he just get it out of his system like you did."

Violet looked away, not comfortable being reminded of her outburst. That had made Mitch's look like nothing, at least so far.

"Did you talk to Minnie? And get the guns back?" Clementine asked, changing the subject.

"Yeah, I talked to her, but I only got the shotgun back. She wants to keep the revolver, Clementine. For protection."

"Well, uh, shit," Clementine said back, feeling conflicted. "I can see why she feels unsafe after all that, but in that mental state? I don't know. I mean, I know she's not just gonna go on a shooting spree, but I've seen what she does when she's mad, Vi."

"She wouldn't do that to one of us," Violet told her, "Abel deserved that shit. The fact that she lost her shit is bad, but it couldn't have happened to a better guy. Even if she gets really mad, she wouldn't do that. She might lose herself, but she's a not a murderer. She would never use that gun on us," Violet said confidently.

Clementine nodded, taking that in. Violet knew Minnie more than anyone, and if she trusted Minnie, then Clementine would take her word for it. Besides, it wasn't as if she didn't know how to use it.

"Fine, let her keep it. Right now, I want her to feel as safe as possible."

"Me too," Violet nodded, relieved Clementine had seen things her way.

She desperately wanted this day to be over, but something else popped into her mind. Someone who really needed talking to, just as much as Mitch or Minnie, maybe even more so. She turned to Clementine with a concerned stare, for the man in question had disappeared right after the funeral.

"Have you seen Aasim?"

Chapter Text

Clementine and Violet headed towards Aasim's room together. His room was somewhere on the second floor of the boy's dorm. They walked slowly, as Violet was trying to recollect which of the rooms was his.

"I can't believe you don't know which room is his," Clementine said a bit mockingly, earning an instant sigh from Violet. "I mean, how long have you known this guy?"

"Look, I've never really ever been in his room, okay? Aasim's a private guy. He's always liked to keep distance."

"So he's like you then?" said Clementine.

"Yeah, I guess, except maybe not quite as awkward," Violet admitted, her eyes scanning both sides of the long hallway. "Pretty sure it's on the left."

"You know, we've talked to each other enough, but I feel like there's still a lot about Aasim I really don't know," Clementine said.

"Join the club," replied Violet.

"Really?"

"Yeah, like I said. He's a private guy. Honestly, I think this is probably a waste of time. I doubt he'll wanna talk about this, at least not yet."

"Why do you all have to be such hard cases?" Clementine asked tiredly.

"Hey, you knew I wasn't the emotional talking-about-shit type when you started dating me Clem, you can't start complaining now," Violet said with a slight grin. "Minnie always said the same thing, you know? She always tried to get me to talk more."

"I'm guessing she won't have that problem with Louis, talking that is," Clementine said with smile.

Violet returned the amused look, "No, no she won't. I hope she knows what she's—."

The sight of a door opening in front of them made Violet cut herself off. Out from his room stepped Aasim, looking even more solemn than usual, but not hysterically upset either.

"I guess that one's his," Clementine said, taking a breath.

"This is not gonna go well," Violet said as she hesitantly approached. "Hey, Aasim," she called out, raising her voice a bit.

The distracted Aasim snapped to the sound of his name being called, finally noticing the presence of the two girls.

"I have a feeling I know what this is about," he mumbled to himself, but loud enough for Clementine to overhear.

Violet really had no idea what to say to him. She was having a hard time bearing with Ruby's death herself. They all were.

"How're you holding up, Aasim?" Violet asked, as the two girls stopped right in front of him.

"Not good, same as you I'd imagine," Aasim said, his eyes as drained of energy as theirs. "I know what you guys are here for, but you guys really shouldn't be giving me any special attention."

"Come on Aasim, we know you liked her," Clementine said. "I mean, there's no way we can make this okay, but we just wanna talk."

Violet could tell Aasim was in no mood to discuss this, and truth be told neither did she. Before, Violet felt that she had to do something, but the day had been long and painful enough. As far as she could tell, there was no real urgency. Aasim needed some time, and frankly, so did she. She hoped Clementine would understand.

"Maybe," Violet started, looking away from him. "Maybe now's not the best time, for any of us. I mean, this shit just happened," Violet said, feeling that the full impact of Ruby's death hadn't quite been felt yet.

Clementine looked to her girlfriend with uncertainty. Violet noticed pretty quickly.

"I mean, Clem, we're both exhausted, or at least I am."

"Vi, we can't just . . ." Clementine trailed off, not wanting to feel like she didn't even try to help.

"No, Violet's right," Aasim said. "You guys are just as fucked up about this as I am. Clementine, if you really wanna talk, then we'll talk, but not right now, okay? I was just on my way to lookout duty anyway."

Clementine huffed, feeling useless. Aasim was being expectedly distant, even more so than usual. Aasim wasn't as simple as Mitch, she wasn't quite sure how to handle Aasim yet, and this was a touchy subject. Her mind wasn't coming up with any answers, because frankly she was too tired to think about it.

"Okay, Aasim," Clementine finally conceded. "Not right now, but we should really talk. Come find me when you're ready, okay? This isn't something you can just get over."

"I'm not really the talking type, but I'll keep it in mind, I guess." he said as he left them, heading down the hall.

Clementine looked to Violet with an irritated face. "I thought you were worried about him."

"Of course I'm worried about him, Clem, but I get where he's coming from. I wouldn't want to talk about this shit either, not right away," Violet reasoned. "He's more like me than he is you, Clementine. He needs time. He's not going anywhere, and I'm fucking exhausted."

"You're exhausted? How do you think I feel?" Clementine snapped a bit. "It's not like you had to kill anyone today. Do you have any idea what that's like? No, the only time you ever tried, you fucked it up."

Violet looked to Clementine with a shock. Clementine had regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. Violet looked mad, and more importantly, she looked hurt.

"Clementine, what the fuck?" Violet said back, clearly offended.

Clementine didn't know how to respond. She didn't mean for it to come out that way, it just did. She had no idea where that had come from. Maybe she was more tired than she thought, or maybe taking Lilly's life had taken more of a toll than she first realized.

"Shit Vi, I'm so sorry," Clementine said with sincere regret. "I'm just . . . really tired. It's been a long, stressful day. I didn't mean it."

Violet seemed to understand that, but she was still stung by Clementine's comment. She had wanted to go put the guns in the office and maybe talk a bit, but now she was thinking it'd be better if she did it alone.

"Whatever, let's just call it a night," Violet said with a huff.

Clementine wasn't sure how angry Violet was with her, and that always bothered her. Violet could be very hard to read when she wanted to be.

"You're mad," Clementine finally assumed with a worried look.

"Yeah," Violet said simply, trying to be honest. "Just give me the other rifle, I'll go put them in the office. You go to bed, before you piss someone else off."

Clementine, now feeling guilty as well as stressed and exhausted, handed the rifles over to Violet so she could stow them away.

"You sure you got all that?"

"I'll manage," Violet said back, rejecting her help.

Underneath the snarky and tough façade Violet put on was an especially sensitive person. She didn't let many people through, but Clementine was one of them. She had let down her guard, and Clementine had hurt her for it. Clementine knew that Violet had been having insecurities about feeling useless, especially in the siege against the raiders, so the fact that it came from Clementine, the girl she loved, just made it hurt even more. Clementine knew that was a sensitive nerve for Violet, so there was no excuse. As Violet left her alone in the hall, Clementine knew that for the first time since they met, Violet wasn't going off on her own because she wanted to be alone. It was because she didn't want Clementine around her. About ten steps down the hall, Violet stopped, but didn't turn around.

"You know I would, if I had to. Kill someone, I mean," Violet said, not even wanting to look at her girlfriend right now. "I told you that because I trusted you, Clementine. I know I fucked up, but you told me it was okay, and I believed you. Now you throw it back in my fucking face. That's not fucking cool, Clementine." said Violet, feeling almost betrayed.

"Vi . . Clementine struggled hopelessly, not knowing what to say.

Violet stood in silence for a few more seconds, then walked on.

"Goodnight, Clementine," she said, leaving Clementine with nothing but guilt and regret.

Clementine had said something cruel. It wasn't something she meant, but it was something she'd never be able to take back. Violet wouldn't forget that. She knew Violet would forgive her, but she couldn't let that happen again. Not if she wanted to keep Violet's trust.

"Goodnight," Clementine said so weakly, she wasn't sure if Violet heard her.

It was the bitterest farewell Clementine and Violet had ever shared, and it had occurred from a simple slip of the tongue and a momentary lapse in judgement. With one, hurtful sentence, Clementine had made a bad night even worse. Minnie had received some relief after her traumatic experience, but it didn't look like Clementine was going to be that lucky. All she had received was a disgruntled girlfriend and a guilty conscience, for she only had herself to blame.

Clementine was done with this day. She headed back to her room without seeing anyone else, except for AJ when she dragged herself into her room. The day had just gone from bad to worse. The place she thought she'd find some relief had just brought her even more strain, only this time it was her fault. She felt like going to bed and never waking up.

"Hey Clem," AJ said hesitantly, quickly noticing her detached state. He figured it was because of Ruby, but he'd only be partly right.

"Hi AJ," Clementine said back, rather weakly, as she all but collapsed on her bed.

"You sad about Ruby?"

"Ruby's just the start, little guy," Clementine said, now lying on her back. "I said something bad, and now Violet's mad at me," Clementine put into simplest terms as she could.

"How bad?"

"Pretty bad," Clementine said with a heavy sigh. "I messed up AJ."

"You think she'll forgive you?" AJ asked, sitting up on his bed now.

"Yeah, I know she'll forgive me, but that's not what's bothering me. I can't believe I said that to her. It was fucked up," Clementine said, still wondering what had come over her. "I mean, I would never say that to her. Ever. But I did. I knew it would hurt her, and I said it anyway. God, I feel like shit."

"Because of Violet?'

"Because of everything, AJ. It's been a long time since I've had a day this long or fucked up."

It was all just too much. Even Clementine had her limits, and when she was pushed to their extent, her frustration had gotten the better of her. It wasn't something that happened often, but it could happen to anyone. Everyone's got their breaking point, and Clementine was about to find hers. Before today, her life was verging on calm, as normal as things could possibly get in this world. Now she was more on edge than ever. Even now, when she was safe in her room with AJ, she was finding it hard to calm down, and she still couldn't get Lilly's last words out of her head. No matter how hard she tried.

AJ could tell Clementine wasn't her usual self, for it was obvious. He may have been a naïve kid, but he wasn't stupid. This time, it was Clementine who needed some company. He could only think of one thing to do that might help put her might at ease, at least a little bit.

"What if I slept with you tonight? You think that would help? So you're not alone?" AJ proposed, not knowing how else to help.

Clementine looked over to AJ, thinking over the offer. She wasn't sure it would help, but it definitely couldn't hurt. There was a certain type of comfort only AJ could provide for her, and she wasn't going to get any from Violet. Not after what Clementine said to her. Even if things were bad, at least she knew AJ was always there for her.

"Sure, goofball. That'd be great," she said, forcing a smile.

"I thought I said to stop calling me that," AJ huffed, but it didn't slow him down at all from getting into Clementine's bed with her.

"I'm sorry," Clementine said as he snuggled up next to her, even though she still very much enjoyed the nickname. "It's gonna be hard to stop."

"Whatever, it's okay," AJ said as he made himself comfortable, resting his head close to her chest. "Goodnight, Clem."

"Goodnight, AJ."

After a few minutes, Clementine realized AJ was already asleep. Despite her exhausted state, Clementine's troubled mind was keeping her awake. It wasn't just one thing either. Suddenly, all she could think about was what was bothering her. Pissing off Violet, shooting Lilly, Minnie's mental state, Ruby's death, even Mitch and Aasim. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't find any peace that night. AJ's offer had been kind, but this was beyond him. This had been coming for a long time.

On any other night, Clementine's distressed psyche may have kept her up through the morning, but the tired girl's body eventually gave out, and sleep claimed her within the hour.

Nightmares were nothing new for Clementine, but never had she faced one quite like this. It was the kind of dream where you ironically find yourself waking up, even though the dream's just beginning, and of course, Clementine didn't know she was dreaming. When a dream is vivid enough, it doesn't matter how impossible it all seems after you wake up, in that moment, nothing feels more real, or terrifying.

At first, it started off like it usually did. AJ was nowhere to be seen at her side. She looked around, not seeing the young boy anywhere. She called his name futilely, but there was no reply. Eventually, she left the room as she always did, entering into a twisted, demented version of her dorm hallway. She called out to AJ again as she wandered down the hall, to which she would receive no reply. She didn't seem to notice that Ericson's hallways were suddenly much longer and narrower, as she never would when in a dream. So far, it had been the same, recognizable nightmare she always had. Always distressing, but it had become recurring enough she had grown used to it.

Now is when things would take a turn for the unfamiliar.

Around the next corner, Clementine could hear what sounded like two women shouting at each other. She recognized both voices. One of the voices she had heard just recently, but it had been years since she heard the other. So long in fact, that her mind was just barely able to come up with what she would have sounded like. She was almost too young. She turned the corner, to come across a vaguely familiar scene. A scene she would now have to witness again, and from now on.

"You think you're some tough bitch, don't you? Like nothing can hurt you, but you're just a scared little girl," came one of the woman's voices, the one that Clementine was struggling to recognize.

Standing across from her was a figure Clementine knew all too well. Lilly. Neither woman seemed to notice Clementine, even when she tried to call out to them. Every step she took, she remained just as far away. Slowly but surely, her recollection of the second woman was returning to her. The name she knew, but it was the face that had become clouded over the years. Soon enough, however, it all became clear.

"Shut up Carley! I've heard enough out of you!" Lilly screamed back.

"Get the fuck over it," Carley ignored Lilly's warnings, just as Clementine remembered.

She was forced to watch this scene play out in front of her again, and again, she could do nothing to stop it. No matter how much she cried out, Carley couldn't hear, and no matter how much she ran, she never got closer.

"Take a page from Lee's book and start helping somebody for once!"

Finally, the dream had let Clementine reach the two women, but by then of course, it was too late. It wasn't exactly the same, but it was sure close enough. Clementine knew what came next. Lilly seethed for a few seconds, before revealing a pistol. Clementine could do nothing but watch as Lilly silenced Carley by shooting her in the face, her body slumping to the ground almost on impact. It was a scene that had always haunted her, but now she had been forced to relive it.

Clementine just stared, distraught, finding her voice caught in her throat as Lilly stood in silence. Finally, Lilly turned, looking Clementine in the eye, finally acknowledging her presence.

"Everyone you know is gonna die, Clementine. That's just how it is, and it's never gonna change."

Clementine wanted to tell her how wrong she was, but she couldn't. All she could was watch in a petrified state as Lilly ran off, escaping into another room down the hall. Clementine kept walking, unable to resist looking at Carley's bloodied, lifeless face as she passed. In front of Clementine now stood two doors, leading to outside the school. Beyond them, she could hear what she immediately recognized as gunshots.

Before she knew it, the doors were right in front of her. Whereas earlier she could never reach what she was running to, now it was as if the dream wouldn't let her get away. She found herself reaching for the door and turning the handle.

Ericson's was burning, just as the ranch before it, as well as countless other places Clementine had visited throughout her life. It was ruined, just as everything in her life had been. The horrified Clementine stepped out into the inferno, watching her new home burn to the ground, still unable to speak. She had to find someone, anyone. She had to try to save who she could, whoever was left.

Through the flames, she managed to make out a female figure, trying to find her way through the carnage just as she was. Clementine recognized her immediately.

"Violet!" Clementine called out, finally finding herself able to speak.

Unlike Carley or Lilly, Violet seemed to hear Clementine's call, looking in her direction. When she laid eyes on her girlfriend, a look of relief flashed across Violet's face. She opened her mouth as if to speak, but she never got the words out.

She saw the figure behind Violet far too late. It was him. The man who had destroyed the ranch, for nothing more than his own twisted pleasure. Clementine had never met a man quite like him, and she hoped she never would again. She had met sociopaths like Carver, and disturbed maniacs like the Stranger who kidnapped her as a child, but none of them resembled this man. He was unlike any other she had encountered so far. He looked like nothing. A nobody. Just some dirty, vulgar man who talked way too much and occasionally said something worth laughing at, a distraction to hide his unpredictable, violent nature. A guy no one expected to be Hell on earth. A force of chaos. Whether or not it was just an act, Clementine never learned. He was as likely to save you as he was to shoot you.

His name was Nate.

Clementine called out in vain as the madman raised his gun at Violet's head with an insane, excited grin, and pulled the trigger. At the sound of the deafening gunshot, Violet fell.

Clementine emerged from her nightmare to end all nightmares with a blood-curdling scream heard around the school.  She shook violently, soaked head to toe in her own sweat, not knowing what was real and what wasn't. She hadn't felt this afraid in years.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCS86JNZXhA Just in case you guys don't remember this guy, here's a refresher! He sure left an impression on me, that's for sure. 

Chapter Text

For nearly a month, Clementine and AJ had lived with the Williamsons, a family that owned a secluded ranch in the deep woods, so secluded that they had managed to survive the apocalypse, at least so far. The family was large and capable, enough that they had been able to hold back attacks from both walkers and small bands of raiders. They had been living off the grid since even before society collapsed, so they knew how to survive on their own from the start, and everyone owned a gun. Clementine and AJ had been on the verge of starvation when they stumbled across the ranch, and although cautious at first, the patriarch of the family, Benjamin, decided they couldn't just leave an unarmed girl and a toddler alone in the woods to die. The family took them in, at least long enough to get the back on the feet. Clementine was put to work as soon as she was able to, not that she minded at all supporting the group that saved them from death.

The place had been more than Clementine could have asked for, although not perfect. The family still had ten surviving members, although there was no one close to AJ's or even Clementine's age. The youngest were in their twenties. The family was friendly enough, if not a bit odd. The family was one of those Southern clan type families that were very close-knit, the kind that not only distrust outsiders, but detest them. Thankfully, it seems Clementine had been lucky enough to run into one of the nicer ones, although if her and AJ hadn't been in such a desperate state, chances were good the family would have just turned them away. Understandably, Clementine wanted to stay as long as possible, and like usual, she was winning people over, although some more slowly than others. At the end of the day, however, it was family that meant most to them, and Clementine wasn't. Half of them still distrusted her and AJ, and Clementine had a feeling it wasn't just because they were outsiders. They weren't quite racist enough to abandon Clementine and AJ to die because they were black, but racist enough to make things uncomfortable at times for sure. Not all of them, but half of them. It's not like Clementine had a lot of options, so as long as it was preferable to barely surviving on the road, she'd put up with it.

The patriarch, while a mostly fair man, and certainly not a bad one, was strict, traditional, and uncompromising. If she or AJ ever became a liability, Clementine knew he wouldn't hesitate to kick them out. They had already showed great generosity, expecting anything more would be pushing their luck. Clementine had to prove she was useful if she wanted to stick around, and she intended on doing just that. That said, things were certainly looking up for the moment. All she had to do was keep their trust, or at least make sure they didn't trust her any less.

Clementine and AJ had been staying in the upper level of one of the barns, since they weren't trusted enough to sleep in the house. They had been given a few blankets, but there was no real way to get a bed up the ladder, even if the family wanted to give them one. Still, it wasn't so bad really, for Clementine had certainly slept in worst places. It still smelled like a barn though, and they had to learn to ignore the noises the horses made when trying to sleep. One of the family usually came to wake them up a little before dawn so they could help with the ranch and farm work, but this time something different was in store for Clementine.

"Hey! AJ! Clementine!" came a loud voice from below, quickly waking both from their slumber.

Clementine let out a sigh as she forced herself up from the floor, while AJ let out a loud yawn. They worked almost the whole day, and by the time they were done they had little energy to do anything else. For the past few weeks, Clementine's life had consisted mostly of work and sleep. They were safe from harm for the time being, and that was the important thing, but Clementine wasn't sure if this was really "forever home" material. She had stayed in much, much more hostile environments, such as Carver's settlement at Howe's Hardware, but she certainly didn't feel like a part of the community, and she had a feeling they'd never completely trust her. Still, they probably wouldn't be leaving for a while, or at least they hadn't planned on it.

"Come on, we're burnin' daylight!" came the voice again.

"We're up, Sam!" Clementine answered back, a bit grumpily as she rose to her feet.

Sam was one of the youngest of the family, a man in his late twenties, and he had been by far the kindest. He was someone one would call inherently good-natured, and if it weren't for him, it was quite possible Clementine and AJ could have already been sent on their way. He was an easy guy to like, even if he and Clementine shared little in common.

"Just makin' sure," came Sam's obviously amused voice.

Clementine put on a fresh shirt and pants. She hadn't changed it in a few days, for clothes were scarce as usual. The fact that she or AJ had any was a luxury at this point. AJ let out another yawn, looking down to Sam.

"Can you guys share your coffee with us again?"

"Honestly, I think you're too young for coffee, but it ain't my call," Sam said with a shrug.

AJ's face lit up a bit, turning to climb down the ladder.

"In this world, coffee seems like a stupid thing to be worried about," Clementine replied as she finished changing, coming down the ladder as well to join AJ and Sam.

"I suppose you're right," Sam said back. "Certainly worse things in the world than a kid drinking too much coffee."

"So what's on the agenda today?" Clementine asked, placing her hands on her hips.

"Actually, Clem, I was hoping you could help me with a bit of hunting. We're running low on meat, and we can't have that can we?'

"Uh," Clementine said with a concerned look, "What about AJ?" she asked, turning to the boy.

"There's plenty for him to do here. Don't worry, he's not goin' anywhere. We'll only be a few hours."

Clementine was understandably hesitant leaving AJ unattended, although she did trust the family at least enough that they wouldn't harm him. Truth be told, Clementine just wasn't comfortable being away from AJ after being separated like they were for so long. It was mostly just her being anxious.

"Don't worry Clementine, nothing bad ever happens here. Nothing ever happens," AJ said, sounding a bit bored.

"I happen to like it that way," Sam said back.

"Well, alright," Clementine agreed, although somewhat reluctantly. "What're we hunting?"

"Whatever we can find that's big enough to eat."

"Shoulda figured," Clementine with a slight smile.

"Alright, c'mon," Sam said as he turned around, heading out of the barn, Clementine and AJ following after him. "AJ, go find Annabelle, I'm sure she has something for you to do."

"Okay, see ya Clem," AJ said, heading off towards the main house.

"Bye, AJ,' Clementine said, still not sure about this.

"Follow me," Sam said, turning his back. "I got the rifles in the car in the already. There's this spot I know about ten minutes away that deer seem to love. We hunted there even the world went to hell."

"Is it safe?" Clementine asked as they approached on the vehicles.

The family still had several vehicles in working order, but gas was always a challenge to find. For this reason, they almost never drove anywhere that was more than a few minutes away.

"Should be pretty safe. No one's really around here. The only other settlement that's around here is harmless, well mostly harmless. They're not raiders, so they're fine. We mostly ignore each other. Probably run into a few walkers, but what else is new?" Sam said, opening the driver's seat door, while Clem climbed into the shotgun seat.

"Alright," Clementine sighed, deciding to trust him. "As long as we're careful, we should be fine," Clementine said hopefully.

Clementine could obviously handle herself, and she knew Sam could too, but she couldn't help but have a bad feeling about this. Still, rejecting Sam probably would have been a bad move, for her was their greatest ally here, and possibly disgruntling him was the last thing they wanted to do. Clementine hoped that after this, they'd start trusting her more, for this seemed like a promotion of sorts.

Sam started the car, and soon they were pulling out of the ranch and down the trail, headed for the main road. They spent the first few moments in silence, for Clementine was feeling quite anxious, mostly about AJ, but she also really didn't want to mess this up.

"Gettin' pretty close now, just a few more miles," said Sam, glancing to her quickly before turning his head back to the road.

"Good, the further away we are, the less safe we are," Clementine said with a relieved tone.

"Don't worry your pretty little head, I've been out here by myself dozens of times," Sam assured her with a smile.

"So then why do you need me?" Clementine asked.

"Eh, I figured you've been cooped up so damn long, maybe you could do with getting' out for a bit. Why? Was I wrong?"

"Well, no," Clementine admitted. "I just wish I didn't have to leave AJ. It's not that I don't trust your family, but I can't help but worry."

"Ya know, I never really got around to askin,' but I'm pretty sure you ain't his real mom,"

"No, I'm not."

"Yeah, you'd be way too young. I'm guessin' they're no longer with us? Unless you're some kinda child-snatcher," Sam joked, to which Clementine just shook her head with a slight smile.

"Oh yeah, totally. I steal kids for fun," Clementine played back.

Sam chuckled a bit, "Shame we don't have any young ones for AJ to play with. I bet he'll get bored."

"I keep him entertained. I mean, it'd be nice, but it is what it is," Clementine said with a shrug.

"It is what it is," Sam agreed,

That's when something came into view ahead of them, down the long, dilapidated road. Another vehicle. An old pickup truck, to be specific. Coming their way.

Clementine noticed it immediately.

"Are there more groups around here with cars?" Clementine asked, understandably concerned.

"Yeah, there's a group in an old motel a few miles away. We mostly leave each other alone. Keep your eyes on it anyway, though,"

An old motel. That brought back some memories for Clementine. Memories she'd rather not think about at the moment. She kept her eyes on the truck. It was too far away to get any kind of look at the driver. Suddenly Sam stopped the car, Clementine jolting forward in the seat as they came to an abrupt halt.

"Oh shit," Sam said, throwing Clementine into bit of a bit panic. "Is that . . ." Sam trailed off, squinting to get a better look at the driver.

"What? What is it?" Clementine demanded, already regretting this decision. "Do you know this guy?"

Still in the distance, Clementine noticed the truck had picked up speed. She saw another figure riding in the bed of the truck lean out, taking a look at Clementine and Sam, and then another. They were only getting closer.

"Fuck!" Sam said, turning the car around as fast as he could.

"What? What the fuck is it?" Clementine asked again, the fact that she wasn't getting an answer just making her more distressed.

In the time it took to turn around, the truck had gained considerable ground on the car, and now Sam had to step on the gas again. The truck was only about fifty feet behind them, and still gaining.

"I thought that guy was fuckin' dead!" Sam yelled, speeding up as much as he could.

"What fucking guy? What the hell did you drag me into Sam?"

That's a gunshot rang out behind them, shattering the back window and shooting straight through the windshield in front of them. The shocked Sam swerved the car, nearly running it out off the road before he got back on track. Clementine glanced in her mirror, realizing that one of the women in the back of the truck had a rifle aimed in their direction. The female pulled the bolt back, getting ready to fire again.

"Sam! Who the fuck are these people? Answer me!" Clementine screamed, having had enough.

"Not now, Clementine. Not fucking now. He's a fuckin' psycho, that's all you need to know. We thought he was gone for good!"

The woman fired again, blowing the mirror off Clementine's side of the car. Now Clementine would have to turn around if she wanted to see them, but that would expose her head, and that was the last thing she wanted to do.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Clementine cursed, trying to keep herself calm. This had gone horribly wrong just as she feared, but not the way she thought it would.

"Clementine, you gotta shoot back at them! Aim for the driver!"

Clementine cursed herself for getting involved with this. Now she had no choice. She leaned over the seat, raising her rifle that was meant to be used for hunting. It was a tight space and with the bumpy road, Clementine couldn't get a good shot. She fired and struck the windshield, but she didn't think she hit anyone on the other side. She struggled to pull the bolt back so she could fire again. When she took aim once more, she saw another of their pursuers lean out from the opposite side of the truck as the woman, holding a pump-action shotgun. At this point, he was well within its range. Clementine's eyes widened, jumping back into her seat. She had to warn Sam.

"Sam! Swerve!"

"What?" Sam yelled, missing what Clementine had said.

Clementine heard the sound of the shotgun blast behind them, and the next thing she knew she was painted in Sam's blood. Clementine recoiled in a fright as the buckshot blew apart the back of Sam's skull. Half headless, his body slumped forward on the steering wheel, pulling it far too much to the left. Clementine could do nothing as the car swerved off the road, crashing into an old electric post at high speeds.

When Clementine came to, her world was a blur. At that moment, she didn't even know where she was, or what was happening. She was alive, she knew that much. By dumb luck, she had survived the crash mostly unscathed, other than the gash across her arm from a shard of broken glass. When she didn't see Sam's body next to her, she assumed he had been thrown from the car entirely, for he wasn't wearing a seat belt. Clementine knew he was dead. There was no point in looking for him. She forced the door open, climbing out of the ruined car with a pained groan. The world was still spinning, and she couldn't bring herself to stand up yet. She just lied on the ground, hearing voices as her assailants approached. There was nowhere to run.

"Holy shit, she's still alive," came a voice.

"Lucky little shit."

Clementine lifted her head weakly, seeing five figures in total, standing before her. The man in front was a middle-aged man, probably in his mid to late forties. Was this the man that Sam had mentioned? There was nothing distinctive about his appearance. Just an ordinary looking guy in a dirty coat and an old cap, yet there was something undeniably unnerving about the way he looked down on her with those wild eyes of his. At first, Clementine thought for sure she was dead. That she had come this far just to be killed by people she didn't even know, for a fight she had no part in.

"She's not one of 'em," said the man in front of her. "Ain't no black girls in that family, that's for sure."

"Then why was she with him?" asked one of the women.

"Knowing this family, she's probably a slave or some shit," came the man's voice again, joking despite the very serious circumstances.

Finally, Clementine gathered herself enough to rise to her feet, although she was wondering why she hadn't been shot yet. They could kill her at any time, that much she knew.

"Hey, girl," came the leader's voice, "You okay? Can you hear me alright?"

"Yeah," Clementine answered with a glare. "I can hear you."

"Well, Clementine, today doesn't seem to be your day."

Clementine didn't reply to the man. No response came to her before he spoke again.

"That guy we just killed, that was Sam, right? I mean, I thought it was him, but I sure can't recognize him now," the man said with a snicker.

"Yeah, that was Sam," Clementine panted, realizing now that they must have had some kind of history. "Who are you? Why'd you kill him?"

"We'll get to that," said the man, crossing his arms. "Hope he wasn't a good friend of yours, cause if you were to hold any kind of bad blood, that'd be very bad for you."

"No, not a good friend," Clementine said quickly, although she left out the part that she mostly liked the man. "I've just been staying with them a couple weeks. They let me live there as long as I work."

"Oh, good. No worries then," said the man with a smile, seeming to believe her for some reason. "Name's Nate. And you?"

"What do you care?" Clementine asked, before realizing it might not have been the smartest move.

This whole encounter so far had been oddly civil, yet undeniably tense. He seemed to have a friendly attitude, but that didn't mean much. She had seen what they had done to Sam, they know they'd do the same to her if she gave them a reason.

"Cause' I wanna know your fuckin' name. I mean, I could make one up for ya if ya want. Don't think you'd like I'd come up with, though."

"Clementine," she cringed, seething in frustration as she held her bleeding arm.

"Clementine?" Nate scoffed a bit, "My darlin' Clementine."

"Oh God," Clementine said, not caring that he heard.

"Don't worry, I ain't gonna start singin' on you. I can't sing for shit. So, Clementine. You feel like dyin' today?"

Clementine wasn't sure how to respond to that, for it was an odd question. After a few seconds of silence, she just shook her head unsteadily.

"No."

"Good answer. Cause to be honest, I don't feel like killing you."

"Nate, you wanna let her go?" asked the man with the shotgun, apparently surprised.

"Nah, I got a better idea," Nate said to him, before turning back to Clementine. "Get in the truck, darlin'."

"What?" Clementine asked, incredulous.

"I said, I get in the truck. You're gonna make yourself useful today," Nate said with a grin as he turned back towards his vehicle.

"You heard the man," the woman with the rifle said, raising her weapon at Clementine. "In the truck."

"What do you people want with me?" Clementine asked desperately.

She didn't get an answer. The woman reached forward, grabbing her shoulder and pulling her forward, then aiming her gun at Clementine's back so she'd walk forward. Badly outnumbered and outgunned, Clementine had no choice. If she tried to run or fight it, she knew she'd be shot down in an instant. Clementine climbed into the shotgun seat against her will, sitting next to Nate. She heard the sound of a gun cock behind her, and she knew that the person sitting in the backseat must have had a gun trained on her, ready to shoot her in the back of the head if she tried anything.

"Relax Clementine, do what I say and you'll be A-Okay," Nate said in a warm, unnervingly friendly tone.

This guy gave Clementine chills, and she had seen all types of bad people. Anyone who smiled and laughed this much while killing people was no one she wanted any part of. For some reason, he hadn't killed her yet, and she wasn't quite sure why. She wasn't about to give him a reason, however.

Clementine just stayed silent as Nate started the truck, wishing she were anywhere but there. Less than half an hour ago, she had woken up in relative safety. They were just supposed to go hunting, something Sam had done a thousand times. Now he was dead, and Clementine had been taken captive by who she assumed were raiders, or a gang of some sort. She didn't have the slightest clue what Nate and his crew wanted from her, but she knew it wasn't going to be good. These were not good people. That much she knew. If she wanted to make it out of this alive and make it back to AJ, she would have to tread very, very lightly. For now, however, she wasn't going anywhere. She was at their mercy. They took off down the road, leaving the car and Sam's dead body abandoned on the side of the road.

Chapter Text

"Clem?" AJ shrieked out, stunned by Clem's sudden and horrific awakening.

AJ looked to his panicked guardian with a shock as she sat up in her bed, trying to get a grasp of where she was and what was happening. She had just woken up from the worst nightmare she had ever suffered, and reality was still settling back in.

"Clem? Clem? It's alright, you're okay!" AJ tried to tell her.

Finally, Clementine seemed to acknowledge his presence, looking back into AJ's eyes that were quite panicked themselves. Clementine, who was usually always so calm and tough was suddenly a distraught, sweating mess, and AJ wasn't sure what to do other than be there for her. He quickly threw her arms around her, trying to calm down the distressed girl and squeezing her as tight as he could.

"It's okay, Clem. You're okay."

"AJ?" Clementine panted, "Oh God, AJ. Thank God."

"Was it that nightmare again? The ranch?"

"Yeah," Clementine said, still trying to get a grip. "But way worse this time. Way worse," she replied, returning the hug.

Knowing that AJ was safe and that it was all a bad dream helped calm her current state, but she knew those images wouldn't be leaving her anytime soon, nor would the nightmare. At first the nightmares had been getting less intense as time went on, yet this one had been the worse yet. She was more than just a little shaken up, she had woken up screaming bloody murder. For the first time in a long time, Clementine felt scared and confused. She didn't know what was going on, but something was wrong with her. That much was clear. The sooner she admitted it the better, because the more she played it off, the worse it would get. Even now, she didn't quite realize the extent of the damage that had been done to her. She had gone through traumatic experiences before, too many to count, yet this felt different. Suddenly she felt overwhelmed, like she was in control of nothing. She felt powerless, like she was a scared little girl hiding behind Lee again. It wasn't a feeling she had missed, not at all. Up until now, she had been able to take everything that had been thrown at her, withstand it, and just keep on going, but it seemed even Clementine had her limits. All those old experiences hadn't gone away, they were just piling up in the back of her mind, and after all these years of heartbreak and tragedy, she had run out of room. It was all falling back on her, whether she had realized it yet or not.

Then a knock came at their door, startling the both of them even more.

"Clementine?" came Minnie's concerned voice from beyond the door. Minnie's new room was only a few doors down, and she now found herself waiting outside her old one. She must have been woken up by the scream, and she wasn't the only one. "Clementine, I know that was your voice! Are you okay? Can I come in?"

"Whaddya wanna do?" AJ asked, looking for Clementine's call.

Clementine hadn't quite realized how loud her scream had been, for she was hardly in her own mind when it happened. AJ wasn't sure if Clementine wanted to let Minnie in, or keep this more contained. At a moment like this, Clementine didn't have the right answer, and just shook her head.

"Yeah, come in," Clementine finally called out, not knowing what else to do. Minnie was only worried about her, and brushing her off felt callous.

Minnie wasted no time in entering the room, albeit carefully and cautiously. When she laid eyes upon the disheveled Clementine, she knew her suspicions were correct.

"Clementine, my God, you look awful!" Minnie said, coming up to her.

"Yeah, I know. I feel pretty shitty too," Clementine said, mostly calmed down now, but still very far off from okay.

"Did you have a nightmare?" Minnie asked, not seeing any other reason for her screaming in the middle of the night.

"Yeah," Clementine admitted. "Never one that bad before."

"Clementine?" came a voice Clementine quickly recognized as Violet's outside the door. Apparently Clementine had woken up half the school with her shriek. Violet came to the already opened door, looking inside to see Minnie already there.

"Oh God," Clementine breathed, realizing she had made quite the scene.

Clementine should have figured her girlfriend would come by to check up on her. Violet may have been upset with her, but she still loved her. The only reason Violet took as long as she did to get down here was because she had to throw own some clothes.

"Christ, are you okay, Clem?" Violet asked, stepping in. "You scared the crap outta me, I thought you were hurt or something!"

Seeing Violet again after the nightmare made her cringe a bit. Just the image of watching her being killed. She couldn't get it out of her head, but she didn't know how to talk about it either. Not now. Not when she was like this.

"Hey, Vi," Clementine said simply, trying not to look at her.

"Clem had a bad dream," AJ said, looking to Violet worriedly.

"Must've been one hell of a bad dream," Violet said back, coming beside Minnie.

"Yeah, it was," replied Clementine.

For the moment, it seemed Violet's frustration with Clementine had left her. There was nothing but concern in her eyes. Her girlfriend was a mess.

"Clementine, you want some water or something?" Violet asked.

Ericson's wasn't exactly a place of luxuries, but they did have fresh water at least.

"Yeah, that'd be great," Clementine nodded, deciding to lie back down.

"Minnie, keep her company, okay? I'll be back in a few minutes," Violet said, leaving for the moment.

"Okay," Minnie nodded, sitting on the bed next to AJ, trying not to crush Clementine's feet in the process. "It's okay, Clem."

"It really doesn't feel okay," Clementine admitted, trying to calm her nerves. She couldn't believe how much the nightmare had taken out of her. She felt totally drained, like she couldn't even stand if she wanted to.

"You wanna talk about what happened in your dream?" Minnie asked, just looking for a way to help.

"Not right now, it's too upsetting," Clementine confessed, shaking her head. "Honestly, right now I'm just trying not to think about it."

"Alright," Minnie sighed, knowing the feeling Clementine was having well. "I'll just stay with you then. I've had plenty of awful nightmares, I know how awful they can be."

"Let's just . . .try to talk about something else, okay?" Clementine proposed, trying to get her mind off her nightmare for now.

"Okay," Minnie agreed, while AJ nodded.

For a brief moment there was silence, as Minnie and AJ both tried to think of something else to talk about to distract Clementine while Violet retrieved some water. It's not exactly like the group had any running sinks, so Violet had to get some from the nearest jug they had stored water in from the freshwater creek. It was then Minnie remembered that this wasn't just any old room, this was her old room. She had been distracted enough by Clementine's ordeal that she had completely forgotten. Now that she thought about it, being in here again wasn't exactly the most comfortable experience, but she wasn't about to leave now. She'd just have to try to ignore the lingering presence of her sister.

"God, I haven't been back in this room since I got back. The last time I was in here was before I was taken," Minnie said.

"Oh, yeah, this used to be your room," Clementine recalled, forgetting herself. "Violet mentioned that."

"Yeah," Minnie said back somewhat solemnly. "This room used to be covered in Sophie's old art. It was beautiful, once."

"Violet said that too," AJ added with another nod.

"I didn't realize all the pictures had been taken down. I'll have to ask the others what they did with them," Minnie said, feeling for what she saw as ignoring her sister's memory. "Maybe I could get one for my room or something, even if looking at it would probably just make me more sad than anything," Minnie admitted, unable to resist the urge to study the room, recalling all the memories she had shared her with her sister over the years. Remembering how happy they both once were together brought a slight, somber smile to her face.

The subject had changed to a matter that wasn't necessarily a cheerful subject, but as long as they weren't talking about Clementine's nightmare, that was good enough for her. She would take what she could get. It was good they could finally get to clear the air with Minnie about this at last, for Clementine and AJ had felt a little awkward staying in Minnie's old room, now that she was back and very much alive.

"You don't mind that we're staying in this room, do you? We never really talked about it," Clementine said, sitting up a bit to look at Minnie. "I mean, if you want it back, it's all yours. AJ and I would be happy in any room."

"No," Minnie said quickly, shaking her head. "No, I don't wanna stay here, especially not alone. It'd remind me way too much of her. It'd just be too sad." Minnie said truthfully, wiping her eyes from some oncoming tears. "I mean, just being in here again has got me all emotional."

"Oh," Clementine said, now feeling guilty about that as well as waking her up. "You don't have to stay, then. I don't' want to upset you."

"No," Minnie said again, "I can't just leave, not when you're like this. I'll be fine. I had to face this sooner or later, right?"

"You don't want to be reminded of your sister? But you loved her, didn't you? Don't you wanna think about her?" said the naïve, but well-meaning AJ.

Minnie looked conflicted now, as AJ had brought up a blunt and hard-hitting point. It was something only a child would dare to ask.

"It's more complicated than that, AJ," said Clementine for Minnie.

"Yes, I did love her. Of course I loved her, and I'll never forget her," Minnie said, taking no offense from AJ's question. She knew he just didn't know any better. "But staying in here by myself, a place where me and my sister shared so many memories together. Staying here, alone? It would just remind me that she's gone, and that would just be too painful. She wouldn't want me to put myself through that," Minnie said, trying to explain to AJ as best she could while holding back tears.

"Okay," AJ said, trying to understand. He still didn't totally get it, but he was able to tell he was upsetting her.

That's when Violet finally returned with a bottle of water she had filled up, re-entering the room in quite a hurry. She had gone and come back as fast as she could.

"Hey, sorry that took so long. I had to fumble around in the dark until I found a damn bottle," Violet apologized, handing the water to Clementine.

"Thanks, Vi," Clementine said, not sure of what else to say, immediately taking a quick drink.

Clementine still felt pretty bad about the awful way she had snapped at her girlfriend earlier. Violet may have forgotten it for the time being, but Clementine hadn't.

"Vi, I'm really sorry. I know I said that already, and I know you're still pissed at me, and you should be, but I can't stand you being mad at me," Clementine said, almost totally without context.

Minnie just looked confused, now wondering if the couple had a fight earlier. At first, Violet looked just as puzzled, as if not even able to think of such a thing at a time like this. When she finally realized what Clementine was talking about, her face fell into a frown. Not an angry frown, but a worried one. The fact that Clementine would bring that up at a time like this made Violet think. Did she have a part in all this? Did knowledge that Violet was angry with Clementine really upset her that much? Just the thought was tearing Violet up inside. She was mad, sure, but she didn't mean for this to happen. No girlfriend would, or at least not any good one. Of course, Clementine's nightmare went far beyond her and Violet's little quarrel, it was just the final push needed to send everything toppling down. Not that Violet knew that.

"Clem," Violet started, not knowing exactly what to say, as usual. "That shit, don't worry about it. I mean, I was mad, but I'll fucking get over it, Clementine. We'll work it out later," Violet assured her, trying to lift some weight off Clementine's shoulders.

"Okay," Clementine said in a dejected tone, still not looking fully convinced.

"Clem, did I have something to do with your nightmare?" Violet asked, for she was too concerned and curious to resist. The only reason Clementine would have thought to apologize again like that was if it was really bothering her, and she did just come out from a bad dream.

Clementine didn't say anything, and at first she had no response at all. Finally, without looking directly at Violet, she just gave a slight nod. Violet looked dismayed, feeling like she had caused this, for she still didn't fully understand.

"Shit, Clem, I . . ." Violet trailed off, words failing her.

"It's not like that, Vi," Clementine tried to say. "It was way more than just what I said to you. It's not your fault."

Clementine's words did little to make Violet feel better. Just the fact that she had a part in this was enough for her to feel guilty, for which Clementine now felt guilty for. It was like an endless cycle.

"Hey, hello?" came a voice, as Louis appeared in the doorway. "I heard a scream, is everything okay?"

"Holy shit, did I really scream that loud?" Clementine asked, looking to them all. Minnie and Violet's rooms were rather close, but Louis' sure wasn't.

"Yeah, it was pretty fuckin' loud," Violet said.

"God," Clementine said, feeling terribly embarrassed.

"Maybe it's time we give Clem some space," Minnie proposed, realizing she must have been quite overwhelmed by now.

"But I really wanna talk about this nightmare," Violet protested, feeling both worried and responsible.

"Not right now, Violet," Clementine said to her.

Clementine knew it would just make her girlfriend feel worse, but she wasn't ready to face Violet about this yet. Just thinking about it gave her anxiety.

"But Clem," Violet said helplessly, looking almost as distressed as her at this point.

"Just give her some time, Vi. You can't expect her to want to talk about this right away," Minnie pointed out.

It was quite a role-reversal from their earlier argument. This time it was Violet who wanted to talk, and Clementine who was far too distressed and exhausted. Unknowingly, the two had learned how the other had felt.

"Okay," Violet finally conceded, although she was visibly unhappy about this. "But what if you have another nightmare?"

"Well, hopefully I won't wake you up again if I do. Right now, there's just too many people in this room," Clementine said, for now there were five counting her and AJ.

"Come on Vi," Minnie said, coming beside Violet. "Let's give her some peace."

Violet took a breath, "You promise we're gonna talk about this later?" she said to Clementine.

"Yeah, definitely," Clementine said, knowing they'd have to at some point.

"Okay, I'll see you in the morning, okay?" Violet said, reluctantly leaving Clementine's side.

"Yeah, okay."

"Come on Louis, show's over," Minnie said to her new boyfriend as she went to the door.

"Never a dull moment, I guess," Louis said, leaving with Minnie.

"Seems that way," Minnie agreed as the vanished from the doorway.

"Goodnight Clem," Violet said, taking her leave as well.

"Goodnight," Clementine said back as Violet closed the door, leaving her and AJ alone once more. Clementine slumped back on the bed, letting out a huge sigh. She didn't even want to go to sleep now, not after all that. "Well, that was a shitshow."

AJ lied down next to Clementine once more, not wanting to leave her side. He looked troubled, and for good reason. "Clem, I wanna help, but I don't know how."

"I know, AJ," Clementine said, knowing the feeling exactly. "I'm sorry, but I don't know either. I think you're doing all you can," she said as honestly as she could, although she knew that wouldn't make him feel any better.

"If you have that nightmare again, do you think it'll be this bad? You think you'll waking up screaming like that?" AJ asked, for it had been an upsetting experience for him most of all. He was right next to Clementine when she woke up, and he had never heard her scream like that. He had never seen her in a moment as weak and vulnerable as she was then, and still is now.

Clementine looked to AJ with worried eyes, for nothing she could say could put his mind at ease. The best thing to do was tell him the truth.

"I don't know, AJ. I don't know."

Chapter Text

Hey guys, sorry there hasn't been a chapter in a while. It's coming soon, I swear. I'm about 1600 words in, and all I need is one more good session I think.

,Anyway, this isn't a vote exactly, but I am looking for your opinions on something I am having trouble deciding on. In the near future, within a few chapters, Clementine is going to stay with Violet again in a desperate attempt for comfort after the nightmare just keeps coming. Without trying to give anything away, things get very intimate and vulnerable, and I'm thinking maybe Clem and Vi get caught up in the heat of the moment and take it all the way. I was wondering if you guys think Clementine and Violet are ready for it, or if you guys think they should wait. Like I said, this isn't a vote, I'm just wondering what you guys think.

Just know that this isn't smut, and if they do have sex I'm not going into super graphic detail. That's just not what this story is or what I want it to be.

So what do you guys think? Is it time?

Chapter Text

The next day would be a rough one for Clementine. She never ended up falling asleep again the night before, albeit she didn't try too hard. She was afraid she'd have that nightmare again and wake up screaming, so she lied awake for hours with AJ sleeping beside her. Now she was exhausted, with a whole day's worth of work to look forward to, all while the horrifying images of her nightmare still haunted her psyche. She would have to rely on the energy given to her by a decent breakfast and some coffee to get her through the day.

Clementine felt weak in both body and mind as she made her way to the main office to meet Violet for their morning brief, where they'd go over the plans for the day. No doubt Violet would want to talk about her nightmare, and she still wasn't sure if she was ready for it, but the last thing she wanted to do was make Violet more frustrated than she already was. When Clementine walked into the office, she was unsurprised to see Violet already there, sitting behind Marlon's desk with Rosie sitting in the corner. The couple had been taking care of the dog the most since Marlon died, although none of the kids had claimed ownership of the dog.

"Hey Vi," Clementine said, managing a weak smile.

"Hey Clem," Violet said back, clearly troubled herself.

Clementine sat in her chair on the other side of the desk, which they had more or less repurposed into a table for the both of them. It was small, but that was just fine for them. Usually, they had no problem at all being so close to each other, but this moment was more uncomfortable than most.

"So, have any more nightmares?" Violet asked, immediately addressing the elephant in the room. "I didn't hear any more screams."

"That's because I never fell back asleep again. I've been up for hours," Clementine admitted with a sigh.

"Shit-sticks," Violet frowned, her hopes of her girlfriend having gotten some sleep now crushed. Violet knew the previous day had been a very, very long one, and from the sound of it, Clementine wasn't able to get any rest. "I'm really sorry, Clem, is there something I can do?" Violet asked, hating to be useless, especially when it was Clementine who needed help. "I mean, I'd really like to talk about it."

"I know you want to, Violet, and we will. Not now though," Clementine said, still deciding to put it off, although the longer she waited, the worse it would get. "Let's just focus on this for now, okay? The school's more important."

Violet didn't look happy at all, but there was a lot to take care of, especially since they had lost Ruby. She wasn't sure it was more important than Clementine's mental state, however. "Okay," she eventually said, although reluctantly.

"So, what's up first?" Clementine asked.

"Well," Violet started with a sigh, for she wasn't looking forward to having this conversation. "I hate to pour salt on fresh wounds, but we need to talk about what we're gonna do now that Ruby's gone. She was the closest things we had to a doctor."

Clementine had been thinking about this problem since yesterday. Ruby was a terrible person to lose, not that anyone would have been good to lose, but Ruby had a very valuable skill set. With a group as small as theirs, there wasn't much in the way of suitable replacements either.

"Well, I guess I could take over," Clementine proposed, "I'm pretty good at stitching up wounds. I don't know nearly as much about medicine as Ruby did though, but I guess I could learn."

"Clem, you've already got so much on your plate with being co-leader, and now you've got all this mental shit to deal with. You've already got too much to deal with, you can't handle anymore," Violet argued, her concern for her girlfriend showing greatly.

"What other choice do we have, Violet? None of the other kids have any medical experience, do you?"

Violet let out a tired sigh, "No, we don't. Honestly, we really shoulda thought of that. Ruby was way too valuable to risk."

"Nothing we can do about it now."

"No, no there's not," Violet agreed, rather morbidly, growing more and more dispirited. "This is fucked up, Clementine. I can't just watch you lose your mind trying to do everything at once. Maybe . . . if you insist on taking over for Ruby, maybe I should take over as leader, at least until you're better."

"I can't do that to you, Violet. It was so hard for you alone," Clementine said.

"Dammit, Clementine. It's okay to be selfish once in a while. I'm trying to help you, stop making me feel so bad about it," Violet said, the frustration in her blue eyes as clear as day.

Just then, a knock came at the door, breaking the tension in the air. Both girls, rather startled from the sudden disturbance, jumped a bit in their seats, turning to the closed door.

"Violet, Clementine? Are you guys in here?" came Minnie's light voice, for she knew the two convened in here every morning, or at least tried to.

"Yeah, we both are, Minnie. Come in," Violet said, sinking back down into her chair.

Minnie opened the door and entered the room, now standing before the two stressed out leaders. "Hey guys," she greeted them, with an obvious, worried tone.

"Hey Minnie. What's up? We're kind of in the middle of something here," Violet said, glancing back to Clementine.

"Well, I figured you guys were both freaked out, trying to find a replacement for Ruby and all."

Violet was taken aback, as was Clementine. "Yeah, we were literally just talking about that. Why?"

"I learned a lot about fixing up injuries when I was with those raiders," Minnie revealed, "Broken bones, blade and bullet wounds, whatever. It wasn't enough to save my sister, but I've gotten a pretty good amount of experience now. I don't know nearly as much about medicine and herbs like Ruby did, but I'm sure she kept some books around and wrote stuff down, so I'm sure I could learn. I mean, I'm the reason Ruby's dead. The least I could do is take over for her."

Violet looked stunned, although this was fantastic news, relatively speaking anyway. "Minnie, that would be amazing. Thanks, seriously. That makes shit so much easier."

Clementine's relief was practically palpable, for even though she would have done it, Violet was right. trying to handle Ruby's role as well as everything else would have been far too much for her. Minnie might have just spared Clementine total self-destruction.

"Like I said, it's the least I can do," Minnie said, managing a slight smile.

"But it's not your fault what happened to Ruby," Violet added, for Minnie was being far too hard on herself. "You can't blame yourself for that shit, you didn't kill her."

"I brought them back here. They came to find me," Minnie said, not believing Violet.

"They would've come anyway, Minnie," Clementine said, standing up from her seat. "And if they wouldn't have, it's still not your fault. You came back to the only place you thought you could be happy. No one can blame you for that."

Minnie still looked unconvinced, but didn't argue anymore. "I'm gonna go through Ruby's old things, if that's okay. As painful as it will be, maybe I can find something that'll be useful," Minnie said, changing the subject.

"Well, that sounds like a good idea," Violet said back, although worrying for the painful feelings such an act might bring up. "Just don't push yourself, Minnie. You're still not okay," Violet reminded her.

"I know," Minnie replied, before turning back towards the door. "Well, I guess I'll get to it. I'm glad that helps a bit."

"It helps a lot, Minnie, not a bit," Violet assured her with a smile. "Take care of yourself, okay? I'll see you later."

"Bye," Minnie said, forcing a smile like usual before she walked out the door, closing it gently behind her.

"Thank fuck for that," Violet sighed, almost overwhelmed with relief.

"She's either the sweetest person in the world, or a total nightmare. There's no in-between with her," Clementine noted, looking towards Violet.

Violet nodded, knowing what she meant. "Well, hopefully we never have to see that side of her again."

"Amen to that," Clementine agreed. "So, what else needs taking care of?"


 

After Ruby's death, Tennessee had hardly seen anyone. He had hidden away in his room as he often did when he was upset, not coming out for some time. During times like these, he wouldn't let anyone in to see him, even though practically everyone at the school was a close friend by now. However, today there would be an exception. As he was working on one of his drawings, a knock came at his door.

"Hey, Tenn? It's your sister. Can we talk?"

Tennessee's head snapped to the door, a bit surprised, for usually Minnie is happy to give him his space. He figured that whatever his sister wanted, it was probably important. He jumped off his bed to go open the door for her. Tenn was met with Minnie's familiar smiling face, although he knew her well enough to tell when it was genuine and when it was not. At this point, smiling had become Minnie's default face, whether she was happy or not. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism she had created to deal with all the sadness in her life.

"Hey Minnie, what's going on?" Tennessee asked, for she obviously wanted something from him. "You doing okay?"

"Well, not really," Minnie admitted, "That's kind of why I'm here. Now that Ruby's gone, I volunteered to take over as our doctor, or medic, or whatever, and now I've gotta do something really hard. I have to go into Ruby's room and look through her things, and honestly Tenn, I don't think I can do it by myself," Minnie admitted, her smile fading. "I know it might be asking too much, but I was hoping—."

"Yeah, I'll come with you," Tenn said, reading Minnie's mind. "We both need to face this sooner or later, I guess."

Minnie's smile returned, only this one she meant. She wasn't sure how this was going to go at first, but she should have never doubted Tenn. Even when in his own emotional turmoil, he showed no hesitation when it came to helping his sister in her time of need.

"You're the best brother ever, Tenn. Thanks so much."

"Come on, let's go," Tennessee said, modestly brushing off the compliment. "Better to just get it over with."

"Okay," Minnie agreed, now feeling a thousand times more motivated, like she could actually do this now.

They made their way across the school towards the late Ruby's room, which was quite a far distance from Tenn's. Minnie decided to talk about something else that had been on her mind, in an effort to lighten the mood from the very hard thing they had to do.

"Hey Tenn, what happened to all of Sophie's paintings? The ones that used to hang in our room? They're not there anymore."

"Oh yeah," Tennessee remembered now. Somehow he had completely forgotten about that. "We still have them. We stowed them all away in an old storage room. Sorry I never told you," Tennessee apologized, now feeling foolish and guilty.

"It's okay, it slipped my mind too," Minnie assured him. "Do you think I could get one for my room? It'll make me sad, but all of Sophie's work shouldn't just be left to be forgotten about. That would be even worse."

"Yeah, of course. Maybe I could get one too, actually. I'm really sorry we took them down, we were all just so sad. We didn't know what to do."

"No, its okay, I get it. Right after I lost Sophie, that last thing I wanted to do was think about her, except that ended up being I could do. Now that some time has passed though, well, I think we should think of her more often."

"Yeah, I think you're right," Tenn agreed.

Before the two knew it, they were standing in front of Ruby's door. Minnie took a deep breath, resisting the urge to knock on the door out of habit. This was going to be tougher than she thought. If Tenn wasn't there to help her, she might not have been able to go through with it. Tennessee reached for the doorknob, opening the door for his sister. The siblings stepped inside Ruby's old room, feeling more than just a bit awkward. It felt so wrong being there without Ruby, almost as if they weren't supposed to be there. Minnie wanted to get this over with as soon as possible, and she hoped that her brother shared that sentiment.

"God, this feels disrespectful, going through her things like this," Minnie breathed trying to contain herself.

"I think Ruby would understand," said Tennessee.

"Yeah, I think you're right. You search the closet, okay? Look for books or notes on medicine, or anything useful. I'll check the rest of the room,"

"Okay," Tennessee complied, taking a few steps over to the closet.

Minnie searched Ruby's desk and under her bed, along with anywhere else she could think of. The rooms weren't very large, and Ruby didn't seem to keep much in the way of personal possessions, so thankfully it didn't look like this would take too long. Minnie found a few medical related books stashed away in Ruby's desk, for she had no bookshelf to store them in instead. Minnie also came across a notebook Ruby used to jot down formulas and recipes, and all of the supplies listed could be found at the greenhouse.

"Thank God Ruby liked to keep records," Minnie said, looking relieved that this trip had been worthwhile. "Have you found anything, Tenn?"

"Few books, some first aid kits, a few other spare supplies, so far anyway," Tennessee replied, still searching through the closet.

Minnie turned back to the desk. There was only one more drawer to search. She pulled on the handle to reveal yet another book, but this was nothing to with medicine. Minnie took a closer look, but the book had no title. She opened it, skimming through the pages, letting out a short gasp when she realized what she was holding. Apparently Ruby kept a diary.

"Oh God," Minnie frowned, feeling that even though Ruby was gone, she was invading her friend's personal territory.

"What is it?" Tennessee asked, looking to his upset sister.

"Ruby's diary," Minnie replied, her arms shaking as she held it. "I never even would have guessed she kept one."

"What should we do?" Tennessee asked, looking to Minnie, for there could be useful information in there as well.

Minnie shook her heard almost immediately. She kept a diary herself in the past, and she knew how personal the information kept in it would be. Minnie couldn't do that to Ruby, even if she was gone. She felt like she was committing a betrayal of trust that went even beyond life or death. The book Minnie was holding was filled with Ruby's deepest and most personal thoughts. No one was ever meant to look upon the pages of this book, other than Ruby.

"No, we can't," Minnie said, placing the book back in the drawer and closing it. "Even though she's gone, we just can't. It's wrong, Reading her diary is like disgracing her memory. We can't do it," Minnie said firmly, turning away from the desk.

"You just wanna leave it here?" Tennessee asked.

"Well, we can't bury it with her, it's too late for that. I don't know what we should do with it, honestly, other than leave it alone. I definitely wouldn't want anyone reading my diary, even if I was dead," Minnie said, still in a fair bit of shock. "God, I can't believe it. This is like if Violet kept a diary, or close." She turned back to Tennessee now, "Are you done searching the closet?"

"Yeah, just about. Nothing else looks useful."

Minnie picked up the books she had found, "Come on, let's get out of here. I don't wanna be here anymore," Minnie admitted, heading towards the door.

Tennessee nodded, gathering up the books he had found along with the spare supplies. He followed Minnie out of the room, who look disturbed and uncomfortable, like she couldn't escape from the place soon enough.

"Are we gonna drop this stuff over in your room?" Tennessee asked.

"Yeah, sure," Minnie said simply, apparently not in the mood to talk at the moment.

Tennessee seemed to appreciate that Minnie didn't want to talk, for he understood the weight of the situation very well himself. The two walked to Minnie's room in silence, as she seemed pretty caught up in her now even more troubled thoughts. Minnie was so preoccupied, she almost walked past the door to her own room.

"Just put everything on the other bed, I guess," Minnie said as she opened the door, promptly plopping herself on her own bed, laying her collected items next to her. She lied down on her back, already feeling drained, and the day had just started. "God, that was rough."

Tennessee looked helplessly upon his sister in her sad state. He really was sick of seeing people this way, over and over, and not being able to help. Minnie needed a way to cope, to get out the sadness and frustration dwelling within her. Then Tennessee blinked. He had an idea.

"Wait here a minute," Tenn said, actually running out the door.

"Uh, okay," Minnie replied, not knowing how else to respond as her brother fled the room. "I wonder what he's up to," Minnie said to herself.

It was several moments before Tenn returned, entering the room with a book in his hand he had received from storage, the same place Minnie's paintings had been placed. Just like the paintings, the item had slipped both his mind and Minnie's up until now. In his other hand he held a pen, as that was one thing they had no shortage of in the school. They had enough pens and pencils to last them forever, or close to it. Tennessee handed the book to his sister, smiling, but also silent.

"What's this?" Minnie asked, not recognizing the book at first.

"Your old diary," Tennessee said, still holding it out to her. "I never read it, I swear. I thought about a few times though, but that was before I knew you were still alive."

Minnie's eyes widened, taking the book out of his grasp, along with the pen. She was never able to keep a diary at the raider camp, and considering she had spent more than a year there, she had fallen out of the habit. Somehow, she hadn't even have thought of asking for her diary back, or even thinking of it at all. Despite her ordeal today, Minnie couldn't help but give Tenn exactly what he was looking for. A real, genuine smile.

"You're the best brother ever, Tenn."

Chapter Text

The first full day without Ruby was coming to its end, and the more Violet saw of Clementine, the more it became apparent that she desperately needed help. She just wasn't acting like Clementine. She showed an almost complete lack of energy and life, and was little more than a drained husk of the girl Violet had come to love. By the day's end, Violet could take no more. She had to do something. She couldn't bear the thought of Clementine trying to get through another night like this, not without her. During dinner, Violet noticed that Clementine had hardly eaten any of her meal, and had barely said a word to anyone, not even her or AJ. Enough was enough. Violet couldn't wait any longer to say something. As dinner was coming to an end, she rose from her place at the table across from Clementine, coming around and grasping her girlfriend's shoulder.

"Clem," she said, trying to get her attention. "Clementine."

Clementine jumped, looking to Violet in a startled fashion, as if Violet had woke her from a stupor. "Vi? What's going on?" she asked, looking totally out of it.

"I can't take this anymore, I need to talk to you Clem," Violet said as she tugged her arm, not giving her a choice as she pulled her aside.

"Ow, okay, okay," Clementine said, coming with her girlfriend willingly.

Violet's move had sparked quite a few stares from her friends, but at this point she didn't even care. She sat Clementine down at another table not in use, so the couple could have some privacy. Violet had spent quite a bit of a time figuring out what she was going to say, and she didn't want to waste any more time.

"Clementine, I want you to stay in my room tonight," Violet said firmly, coming right out with it. "You're a mess, and I wanna help. If you're not with me, I'm gonna be up all night worrying about you. I know you're tough, but if I let you go through this without me, it'd make me the shittiest girlfriend in the history of shitty girlfriends. I love you, Clem, and if you wake up screaming again, I wanna be there for you."

"Jeez, Vi, you're pullin' out the big guns," Clementine said rather weakly, realizing she wouldn't take no for an answer. Truth be told, Clementine was glad Violet came forward, but the way Violet had put it, Clementine felt she couldn't say no even if she wanted to. "Okay Vi, I'll sleep with you tonight. I'm not sure if it'll help though, because AJ slept with me last night, and it didn't go so well."

"It's worth a shot, and there's a pretty big difference between sleeping with AJ and sleeping with me, Clem," Violet said with a bit of a grin, "I can think of a few ways I can try to help."

Clementine blushed, but couldn't help but feel that Violet had seemingly forgotten about their little spat the night before, while Clementine definitely had not. Violet had told her not to worry about it for now, but they couldn't just forget it happened. Violet still hadn't accepted Clementine's apology, but Clementine wasn't sure how to bring it up. In truth, she was afraid to, because she didn't want Violet to stop being so supportive, but they couldn't dodge it forever. If they were going to spend the night together again, it was going to have be worked out.

Violet suddenly leaned in, putting aside her embarrassment and planting a quick kiss on Clementine's unsuspecting lips. Clementine blushed even harder now, unable to contain a smile before Violet pulled away just as swiftly. She knew their friends were watching, even if they were pretending not to.

"We're gonna get through this Clem, you're gonna be okay."

"Okay," Clementine nodded, forcing a smile to give Violet some peace of mind, or at least attempt to.

"I love you, Clem," Violet said, trying to sound as earnest as she possibly could, staring straight into Clementine's golden brown eyes. "This might sound cheesy, but seeing you like this is killing me inside. If you're not happy, then I'm not happy."

Clementine stared back at Violet with wide, surprised eyes. She knew being that honest about her feelings wasn't easy for Violet, but she had cast off her defenses, and instead of making some snarky joke in an attempt to make Clementine laugh, she had come forth with something straight from the heart.

"That . . . doesn't sound cheesy at all, Violet," Clementine said, feeling a bit overwhelmed with affection, but it was a feeling she warmly welcomed. "That was . . . I needed that, thank you," Clementine admitted, making sure Violet felt her efforts were appreciated. "You're a great girlfriend, Vi. The best."

Clementine's response triggered a deep, crimson blush from her girlfriend, now nearly bursting with embarrassment. "Well, I mean, I'm glad I could help," Violet stumbled, not knowing how to respond.

Clementine wanted nothing more than to kiss her, but she had a feeling if she did that Violet may just explode. So instead, Clementine decided to give her a minute alone to try to calm herself down.

"I'm gonna go tell AJ, I'm sure he'll understand," Clementine said, rising from the table.

"Yeah, okay," Violet said, quickly doing the same. "I'll go make sure the room's ready, I guess. "I'll see ya in a bit, okay?"

"Definitely, I'll be there in a few minutes," Clementine smiled, now no longer feeling she had to force it.

With that, the two girls split in different directions, Clementine back to AJ, and Violet towards the school's front doors. Sitting on the steps in front of Violet were Louis and Minnie, the school's newest and only other couple. The fact that Minnie was Louis' girlfriend was still sort of unreal to Violet. Two years ago this reality would have been written off as a bad fever dream. Neither one of them had any problem with public affection, so it shouldn't have been surprising for Violet to discover them having nothing short of a make-out session. They were only kissing of course, but Violet couldn't help but feel concerned. Grossed out as well, but also concerned. Violet wasn't going to interfere, but she really hoped they wouldn't take things too fast.

"Try not to swallow each other you two," Violet grinned as she passed, briefly breaking the two lovebirds apart.

"Come on Vi, don't ruin our fun," Minnie pouted, although playfully. "I mean, we're only kissing. Don't tell me that's too much for you."

Violet knew they both deserved to be happy, and that part of her was ecstatic to see them together. Then again, there was also a part of her that liked fucking with people.

"You two have your fun, I'm turning in for the night. I've got Clementine coming over," Violet wasn't ashamed to say.

"Oh, okay," Louis started, turning towards Violet. "You get to brag about doing Clementine, and we're the ones getting carried away. Pffft."

"Me and Clem have been together for months. You guys have been dating for all of twenty-four hours, and I'm not gonna 'do' her," Violet said with a squint. "Well, I don't think so anyway," Violet mumbled to herself. She doubted the possibility, but at this point in their relationship, it was a real one. Still, with Clementine in her current state, Violet couldn't imagine she'd be in the mood to take such a step. She turned away from the two now, heading inside.

"Night."

"Night," they both said after her, before eagerly going back to what they had been doing.

Violet made her way to her room rather hastily, for Clementine wouldn't be long. Her room was still mostly acceptable for someone else to be in, as Clementine had now stayed with her overnight a number of times, but she wanted to make sure everything was okay. She wasn't sure if Clementine would want to sleep in her own bed this time, sometimes she did, other times she didn't, but Violet made sure it was clear just in case. She had mostly done this to get a moment to herself, just to mentally prepare for the night. This wouldn't be like the others, for Clementine was in a rough place, and the priority here was to be there for her, not to flirt and play around like they usually did, although she hoped that wouldn't be totally absent either.

When she felt everything was ready, Violet sat herself down on her bed, taking a few deep breaths before Clementine's arrival. She wasn't the best at dealing with emotional people, and most times she tried to avoid it, but obviously Clementine was an exception. Clementine had been there for her in her most vulnerable time, and it would be very likely Violet would have to do the same tonight. She knew things could get very, very real, and she wanted to make sure she was prepared for it. Violet knew this was the right thing to do, and like most other times, it was also the hard thing to do. All Violet wanted was for her girlfriend to feel better, and she was willing to go miles out of her comfort zone to make that happen, if the situation called for it. Violet felt she was as ready as she was going to be, but Clementine was taking longer than expected. She lied down on her bed, now finding herself getting both nervy and worried. When the knock finally came at her door, Violet was actually relieved, not nervous.

"Hey Vi, it's me."

"Come in," Violet said, sitting up.

Violet took one last breath as the door opened, revealing Clementine, as exhausted looking as ever. Despite that, Clementine tried her best to look happy about this, because she was.

"Hey," Clementine said, sitting down on the bed next to Violet.

"Hey, so uh, I made sure the other bed was clear. It's up to you whether or not you want to sleep with me or by yourself."

"I definitely would rather be with you right now," Clementine said as she took off her shoes. "If that's cool."

"Oh yeah, it's definitely cool," Violet said, for she preferred that option.

Neither girl was really quite sure how to start off the night, as this wasn't quite like the other nights they had spent together. This wasn't for fun, and both of them were sort of afraid to have any, which made things rather awkward at first.

"So did you see Minnie and Louis out there?" Clementine asked, even though she was pretty confident that Violet had. "They looked pretty happy."

"Yeah, that's still kinda weird. They were really going at it. I mean, I'm glad she's happy, but I didn't break up with her that long ago, ya know? I just hope she's ready," Violet admitted with a bit of a sigh.

"She's probably pretty starved for affection," Clementine added. "She was your girlfriend, and she was really looking forward to being with you after spending a whole year being trapped in hell, and you know how that went. She's been sad a long time, and she just wants to at least feel happy again."

"Yeah, Minnie's always thrived off physical affection," Violet agreed, "Made it kind of exhausting to be with her, but I always thought it was worth it."

Clementine paused for a second, trying to think of a good way to bring this up, for she had never gone near the subject before. "Hey, Vi?"

"What's up?"

"Speaking of your relationship with Minnie, uh, did you guys ever . . . take it all the way?" Clementine asked, quite nervously.

Violet looked a little floored at Clementine's inquiry. "You mean, like sex?"

"Yeah," Clementine nodded.

"Well, no," Violet said as she looked away, feeling embarrassed. "We never got a chance to go that far. We were like thirteen when we got together, I think. We talked about it, but we never got around to it before, well, you know. . ." Violet trailed off, not wanting to even mention what had happened to her.

"Okay," Clementine breathed, feeling a bit of comfort knowing Violet was a virgin too, for some reason.

"Why did you ask me that?" asked Violet, turning back to her.

"Well, do you think we should start talking about it?" Clementine asked, coming out with it. "I mean, uh, God, I don't know how to talk about this," Clementine realized, feeling just as embarrassed as Violet. Up until she had arrived her months ago, the thought of feeling this way and doing something like that never even registered as a possibility, yet now it was a very real one.

"Clem, is this really want you want to talk about right now?" Violet asked, for she hadn't prepared for this in the slightest.

"It's been on my mind for a bit, and yeah, I feel like we need to at least talk about it a little bit," Clementine said back. "I mean, has it been on your mind at all?"

"Well, yeah," Violet admitted, trying to contain herself. "But it's not what I figured you'd want to talk about, with everything else."

"We can talk about that stuff too," Clementine pointed out. "But I feel like we need to have this conversation," Clementine said, using what little she knew about being in a long term relationship. Much of this was still very new to her.

"Well, okay," Violet said, not wanting to say no to her. "Let me lie down at least, okay?"

"Can I be next to you?"

"Yeah, of course," Violet nodded, making sure to leave enough room for her.

Clementine joined Violet at her side, and for a second both girls just stared at the ceiling rather than look at each other. Violet took another breath, trying to get a grip on this conversation.

"Okay, so you want to try it? With me?" Violet asked, making sure.

"Yeah, that's what I'm saying," Clementine said, although it was pretty obvious. "I mean, I'd have no idea what I'd be doing."

"Me neither," Violet admitted, "I mean, I guess I sort of would, but not really. I can do it to myself, I know that," Violet said through a massive blush. "But trying to do it to someone else would be different, I think."

"Yeah, I think so too," Clementine agreed.

The conversation was awkward, but as close as they were, they realize they shouldn't have been ashamed to talk about what they were talking about or admit what they were admitting. There was no judgement here, just them.

"But do you want to try it?" Clementine asked, for Violet had never given her opinion.

"Uh, yeah," Violet said, speaking honestly. "Yeah I would, but I'm not sure when. How soon were you thinking?"

"I don't know," Clementine confessed, "I just wanted to get it out there, I guess. I felt like we were dodging around it, and I wanted to talk about it."

"Okay," Violet said, looking relieved. "As long as you don't want to right now."

It was a good thing she was lying down, for Clementine was dizzy at the thought. Having sex with Violet? Right now? That very moment? Undeniably, part of her wanted it, but another part was terrified.

"Yeah, no," Clementine agreed, feeling overwhelmed, "Not right now. I just wanted to make sure it was something we were both interested in."

"Okay, well yeah, I am," Violet breathed, looking to Clementine desperately. "Can we talk about something else, now?" Violet had wanted to get ready for bed, but she felt pretty awkward about taking her clothes off now.

"Sure," Clementine said, smiling a bit in amusement. Behind all of her big talk, Violet was just as nervous about it as her. What came to mind next rid her of her smile pretty quickly, however. "So are you still mad at me? Because I need to know, Vi. I'm dying to know."

"About that thing you said to me you mean?"

"Yeah," Clementine nodded.

"Well, it seems pretty unimportant now, but yeah, I was pretty mad at the time," Violet admitted, "I told you something that I'd never tell anyone else, except maybe Minnie, and you used it to hurt me, so yeah, I was pretty upset."

"I know," Clementine frowned, "I'm so sorry, Vi."

"I know you are, Clem, and I'm gonna forgive you," Violet said, as her concern for Clementine's condition outweighed her anger. She wanted as little weighing on Clementine's mind as possible. "Just promise me you won't ever do that again, 'cause otherwise I won't be able to trust you with that information."

"I promise, totally," Clementine said quickly. "If I break it, you can totally break up with me. I'd deserve it."

"Well, I don't know about that," Violet said with a smile. "It'd take a lot for me to break up with you. The only other girl here is my ex."

"Vi . . ." Clementine squinted, for now she was joking around.

"I mean, it's kinda true," Violet shrugged. "We're pretty deep into this now, Clem. I love you, like, I seriously love you. I'm not gonna break up with you just like that, this is way too real for that. You'd have to really, really fuck up for me to consider leaving you, Clem."

Clementine smiled, taking Violet's hand in hers. "Thanks Vi, I seriously love you too."

Violet chuckled a bit, letting Clementine lean in to kiss her. The two girls were in no rush to keep talking. They had officially made up, and they were more than content to enjoy the moment. Clementine knew Violet loved her, but hearing her say just how much was something she didn't even realize how much she needed. Clementine rolled on top of Violet, making sure she had no protest before continuing the kiss. They had both agreed not to take it too far, but that didn't mean they couldn't have their fun. Violet undid Clementine's hair tie so she could run her hands through her brown locks as she pleased.

"Hey, don't lose that," Clementine stopped to say. "I don't have many of them."

"I could always just give you a haircut. I mean I like it, but you kinda need one," Violet said with a smile.

"Yeah, I guess I do," Clementine agreed. "Maybe tomorrow," she said as she rolled off her girlfriend, but being careful not to go right off the bed. Clementine let out a loud yawn as she mad herself comfortable. "I'm getting pretty tired, Vi." She was still hesitant to fall asleep, but she couldn't stay awake forever.

"Well, okay," Violet said with a bit of a frown. "I still want to talk about this nightmare, though."

"If I wake up again like last time, we can talk about it all you want. I really don't wanna spoil this moment," Clementine admitted.

"Clem, you keep on saying later, and I really need to know," Violet protested. "Just tell me something, please? I mean, I already know I'm in it. I mean, what made you wake up screaming like that? What happened at the end?"

Clementine really didn't want to talk about, but Violet deserved to know, and she knew it. Now, it was Clementine's turn to take a deep breath. "I screamed like that because at the end, you were killed, Vi," Clementine admitted, the image very much upsetting her. "You got killed, and there was nothing I could do but watch."

Violet's eyes went wide, "You, you screamed like that, because of me? Not AJ, but me?"

"Yeah, you. I couldn't find AJ, I never can. I've had the nightmare before, Vi, but you were never in it, not until now. When I saw you, and you died, it was just too much," Clementine admitted, cringing at the thought.

Violet let that sink in for a moment, now fully realizing why Clementine was so upset. Violet had no idea the image was as disturbing as that. If Violet had to watch Clementine die, she'd most likely lose her mind, so it was a feeling she definitely understood.

"How, how did I die?" Violet asked, pressing further.

"Vi . . ." Clementine shook her head, turning over in protest. "Please. . ."

"Okay, okay," Violet conceded, getting the message that this was too upsetting for her. "That's enough for now."

Clementine remained silent, but she was glad Violet had decided to leave it for now. She couldn't take anymore. Violet took this time to strip down to her underwear, since she was pretty sure sleep was next on the agenda. Clementine heard her, and although Violet wouldn't have minded, she didn't turn over to look. She had been thinking about sex quite enough already. Violet blew out the candle, then climbed back in bed with Clementine, making sure to cover them both with the blanket. Clementine let herself relax as Violet's arm crept over her side, holding her close.

"You're gonna be okay, Clem, and so am I. Neither of us are gonna die. The raiders are gone," Violet said, trying her best to comfort her. "We're both gonna be okay."

Clementine didn't have the heart to tell Violet it wasn't the raiders who killed her in the dream, that it was someone even worse. Someone who killed just because he wanted to, not because he'd get anything out of it. Lilly may have turned into a ruthless, evil bitch, but even she couldn't hold a candle to this man's level of insanity. Clementine tried her best not to think about him, but now it was all she could think about. She took comfort in knowing Violet was with her, and very much alive. Clementine turned over now to face Violet, wrapping her arm around her so they were in each other's arms. Neither girl let go for a second, even as they drifted into sleep.

Chapter Text

Hey guys, not a new chapter, sorry. Next chapter we'll be wrapping up the flashback at the Williamson Ranch, but for now I want to have a bit of a discussion. We've had a lot of character development with Minnie in this story, and I have to say I'm quite proud with what I've done with her, and I know many of you enjoy her too. Now she's in a relationship with Louis, which brings me to the topic of this discussion.

Do you guys like their relationship, and would you like to see more of it? Most chapters center around Violet or Clementine, and this will continue, although Minnie has had one or or two of her own chapters. Right now they're in the background, but would you guys be into seeing them as the focus of a chapter here and there? Obviously the focus is going to remain on Clem and Vi, but I wanna know how you guys feel about this idea first. I think they make a pretty good couple, but I've noticed chapters that are mostly about Minnie get less comments. So what do you guys think? Do you like Louis/Minnie? Or Lounerva, I guess we could call it? Unless one of you guys has something better lol.