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Dance with the Devil

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‘Alexandria. A safe place.’ He thought to himself as he walked the streets. He saw people walking around living without a care like what was going on beyond the walls had no real effect on them what-so-ever. But he knew different, he lived outside of those walls for 3 years. He survived out there. He knew he would survive when it started. Him and his brother. He was only slightly wrong, his brother didn’t make it.
His cross bow slung over his back caused the people of Alexandria to look at him uneasily, along with his disheveled appearance. He had been there only 4 days and had yet to use the hospitality that they offered, preferring to live as he had before. After the first day in Alexandria he decided that he needed to keep himself busy and away from these people. No one really bothered him, but that could have been because they were already uneasy with him around. Him not being within the compound… I’m sorry, ‘neighborhood’ made people feel a little safer. It made his group uneasy, and they worried something would happen to him when he was off alone.
He stopped caring about them worrying when Beth was lost at the hospital. In his way he loved the group, but he didn’t want to deal with any more loss, and the only way to do that was to distance himself as much as he could.
He learned at a young age that people would hurt you, even the people closest to you could turn on you if they needed to. One of the only people who never did was lost. His brother protected him in his way, maybe that wasn’t the best way, but at least he showed he cared. That was all the family he knew. His father was abusive and didn’t care if the two boys lived or died. This only grew worse after his mother died when he was only 5, his brother 10. His mother protected him as best she could, but sometimes her sickness didn’t let her step in or his father would take them out camping and that’s when it would happen. But that wasn’t something that he wanted to dwell on any longer. That was another life, one that he had no purpose in, one that was him just existing and trying to keep his brother out of trouble.
He sighed to himself as he made his way to the gate. Sasha watched him walk beyond the boarders into the surrounding woods shaking her head. “He needs to at least try to fit in, they’re watching him, they don’t trust him,” she paused, “I’m not really sure if they trust any of us.”
Rosita looked at her, “I’m not sure what this place is doing with any of us. Rick and Michonne being the constables, you and me guarding the gate. Tara and Glenn heading up the runs since Deanna’s sons are complete fools. She’s making it almost too welcoming to us.”
“Either that or she knows how weak this community really is,” Sasha turned surveying the surrounding area an uneasy feeling creeping over her.
*~*~*
“They let in a new group, I heard that they’re staying.”
“What would you like me to do about it? Who knows where they came from, or who they are; and we both know that those damn interviews that Deanna does upon entrance don’t mean shit. “
“It’s been so long since anyone was even invited in, maybe this group is different. Aaron checked them out, and they saved Eric. No other group has even passed being scoped out in a long time. We were one of the last ones let in.”
“How long have they been here?”
“Just 4 days, 2 of them are the new guard watch, and another 2 are heading up the supply runs, 2 more are the new constables within the compound—“
“How many of them are there?!”
“Well there are 2 kids, a baby and a teenage boy, and I think there about a dozen adults with them. I’m not exactly sure of the number but that’s what people are saying. All of them are starting to fit in, except for one guy that was with them. He’s making everyone nervous. He hasn’t spoken to anyone but Deanna in Alexandria. He’s keeping to himself, I don’t think they trust him. Deanna seems to think that if she didn’t let him stay they all would have left though.”
“So they’re a tight group. That’s good to know, but with that many I don’t think we’d be able to get them to leave if they caused problems unless we killed them,” she untucked a few knives from her belt and set them down on her kitchen counter, “I don’t know how much longer we can stay here. I know we’re safe, inside the walls, for now. But her sons are going to keep getting people killed out there, we were almost done for if you didn’t pull a knife on that Walker they were toying with,” she pulled more knives from her boots and other holders as she spoke.
“You were out there for 4 days, how they hell did you get this dirty? And what the hell did you need all of those knives for?”
“You know me Sam, I never leave home without a few of my favorites,” she smiled sheepishly.
“A few of your favorites Jess? Really? A few?”
“Hey I don’t want to hear it, you do the same thing when you leave. How is my cat?” Sam shook her head as they both laughed. In all reality she would have been nervous if Jess didn’t take her knives with her when she left Alexandria, not just for the Walkers, but because of anyone else she might have crossed paths with while she was out, including the new guy and Deanna’s sons.
*~*~*
Alone, finally. He crouched down searching for any kind of tracks. He needed to keep his mind busy, and that was the best way he knew how; to focus on tracking. He didn’t care what he was tracking for he just needed something to do. The sun was hot on his back, but nothing like the Georgia sun. The grass was high and thick, making it easy to keep watch for anything else that could have been out there.
He spent hours looking for anything. Finding a few squirrels, a rabbit, and a cool stream where he filled his canteen. The sun started to go down and he decided to make his way back to Alexandria. “Daryl! Where have you been?” Sasha asked as she opened the gate for him to return.
“Out.” He answered gruffly, not in the mood to talk to anyone.
“Carol wants to talk to you, she asked me to tell you when you got back.”
“Yeah I’ll get there.” He walked away not wanting to continue the conversation. He knew what Carol wanted, and he wasn’t ready to ‘try and make it work’ yet. He wanted to be left alone. She had told him he had to let himself ‘feel it’. Feel the loss that was inside, the loss for Beth and for Tyreese; the only way that he knew how to do that was to stay away from them, from everyone and ‘feel’ on his own terms. He wasn’t going to change that just because they felt like they needed to fit in.
“Daryl, shower.” It wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command.
“Yeah I’ll get to it.” He looked up to see Carol coming up the front steps to one of the houses that they were given.
“Do it or I’ll hose you down myself,” she tried to smile at him. But he didn’t look up to notice, “Daryl, you have to try. I know it’s hard, but this is what we have to do. We’re safe here. At least for now. A place to rest, a place where we don’t have to be on guard for Walkers at every second, food, clean water,” she paused and looked at him, “clean clothes.”
“I like my clothes just fine.”
“At least let me wash them while you shower. This isn’t a suggestion anymore. You have to try Daryl. You need to at least make it look like you want to be here. And that starts with you washing the grime off of you, and letting me wash your clothes.”
He flicked the cigarette he had been smoking into the street, “fine” he swung his leg off of the porch banister and walked inside the house, Carol following closely behind. “What are you going to follow me into the bathroom?”
Carol laughed, noticing the slight smile on his face, “Actually I was just going to show you where the towels are, and get you a clean pair of pants so you have something to wear until these are finished,” she pat him on the shoulder as she opened a closet door. “Here,” she took out a white fluffy towel and shoved it into his hands along with a pair of dark blue jeans, socks, and a clean plaid shirt. “I set these aside for you, I knew you’d have to shower eventually and change out of these clothes, and I figured it’d make you happy to ruin a nice white towel while complying.” She smiled, he smirked, “just leave your clothes outside the bathroom and I’ll start washing them as soon as you do. I’ll make sure your vest is done before you get out, I know how you like it.”
Daryl grunted in acknowledgement and walked to the bathroom. He stripped his clothes and threw them outside the door turning the water on, moderately happy to see a shower. The water felt good on his aching body, as he let himself relax for the first time in what felt like years. He began to scrub himself vigorously, not only trying to remove the dirt, but the painful memories of the last 3 years.
‘Knock, knock, knock.’ “Hey Tara I’m elbow deep in washing clothes, can you get that?” Carol leaned out of the wash room and yelled.
“Yeah, Yeah sure,” Tara mumbled as she paused her video game and walked to the door, she looked through the window trying to see if it was one of the others. She paused for a second when she saw two girls standing at the door. They could have passed for twins, with minor differences. One was taller, than the other both athletically built with some curve to their bodies. The shorter girl’s hair was longer about mid-back length auburn in color with her bangs swooping to the left side, while the taller had shoulder length hair that was dark chestnut the front pieces of her hair done into a poof leaving her face uncovered. Their clothes were almost identical, except in color. The taller girl was in purple plaid, dog tags hanging around her neck, with black skinny jeans and black boots rolled down to show a purple plaid on the inside, while the shorter one was in red plaid with her shirt unbuttoned to show a black tank top underneath, that showed off her cleavage, with her boots laced up over her ankles.
Tara opened the door, “Hi, I’m Sam, and this is Jess. We haven’t had a chance to meet you guys yet, and we wanted to come over and meet you in person. We were one of the last groups that they let into Alexandria, about 6 months ago now,” she smiled at Tara. Jess stood with her arms crossed looking almost bored and angry all at once.
“Oh Hi, um, well everyone’s not here right now… but you guys can come in and meet Carol and me,” she opened the door wider for them to walk in, “She’s down the hall in the wash room doing some laundry.”
The girls made their way down the hallway Tara walking behind them trying to check them out unnoticeably she already had a preference for the taller girl with the dog tags, Sam she reminded herself, but resigned herself to just looking figuring they were together. . “Carol? This is Sam and Jess, they were one of the last groups let in here before they let us in about 6 months ago they said.”
“Well hello,” Carol smiled, both girls could see through it knowing that she was taking them in and assessing them, “I’m sorry I’d shake your hands but,” she looked down and shrugged, “how can we help you guys?”
Sam answered knowing Jess wasn’t much for talking, she liked to watch people to notice the body language and see through them that way rather than listening to lies, “We just wanted to stop by and introduce ourselves, we live in the next house over. Jess has been out of Alexandria for the last few days so she hadn’t even heard of you guys coming in, I figured, since all of us have been out there longer than any of these people it’d be nice to have someone to talk to who actually knows what it’s like.”
This took Carol by surprise, two girls who looked like they did, in their late 20’s surviving out there for so long. “Really you two have only been here 6 months? Were you guys in another camp?”
“Cut the crap,” Jess looked at her moving her hands to her hips, “We know damn well you aren’t a helpless woman, no one can be out there. So don’t act like you’re so surprised that we survived on our own.” Carol’s smile fell as she looked at Jess, “your secrets safe with us. We aren’t going to tell anyone any differently, but I want you to be aware that we know.”
“Well that changes, that doesn’t it?” Carol laughed, “Would you two mind either hanging around until Rick and Michonne come back or coming back then? I think they’d like to talk to you about this place.”
“I’m, um playing video games if you guys want to join me?” Tara added.
“Yes!” Sam answered quickly checking her out as Tara walked back to the living room. Jess stayed back with Carol, hopping up on the counter.
“So is it still a hell hole out there?”
*~*~*

Chapter Text

Tara tossed a controller to Sam, “I haven’t played a video game in years, once we lost power when it all started there was no way to really do anything.”
“I’ve caught up in the last six months. It seems like they load the houses with all the useless junk that we used to have before this all happened, I guess they’re trying to make everyone think that we’re okay and that what’s happening out there can’t touch us anymore.” Sam responded as she started to pick her character.
“So I uh noticed your dog tags, what branch? I was a cop before this shit went down,” Tara glanced over.
“No you weren’t. I was Air Force, a medic. Kind of makes me a hot commodity in this new world we’re living in.”
“I was in the academy… before… I never got to finish because of all this…”
“You tried,” Sam laughed, “Did Deanna buy that? Or did you at least save yourself from lying on her precious videos?”
“No, I told her the truth when she interviewed me,” Tara looked down at her hands.
“Hey don’t worry about it, I understand. No one takes you seriously out there if you didn’t have some kind of badass job before. I mean at least you were in the academy and not just a delivery driver right?” Sam smiled at her, Tara laughed.
“Actually, one of our guys was a delivery driver before.”
“Oh trust me I’m not saying anything really bad about having a non-badass job before, Jess worked in an office, and if you ever see her in action you would never know she sat at a desk 40 hours a week for years.”
“How’d you two meet? Did you know each other before this all went down?”
“Yeah, we’ve known each other for a long time, been inseparable since high school.”
Tara sighed to herself, she knew it, they had been together long term. She had no chance. “That’s lucky, most of the people I knew in high school are dead now.”
“That seems to be the general consensus with the rest of the world.”
*~*~*
“Can you do me a favor? Can you grab that box of detergent off of the kitchen counter? I didn’t realize how dirty these clothes were I’m going to have to drain this and wash them again.” Carol sighed.
“Sure not a problem,” Jess slid off the counter and walked into the kitchen.
*~*~*
Daryl dried himself with the towel carol had given him, he had taken a good 40 minutes washing the past few years off of him, and had to admit he was feeling better. He already knew he would have to be the one to clean the shower since all the dirt had settled at the bottom of the shower; the towel, aside from being wet, however was not dirty in the slightest. This would make Carol happy seeing that he actually took advantage of the shower. Sliding the pants on and throwing the shirt on unbuttoned, his hair was still wet even after he shook his head it dripped a little down his chest. He walked out of the bathroom and made his way to the kitchen slowly, he heard voices that he didn’t recognize and he still didn’t want to socialize with the people of Alexandria.
He stood by the doorway in the kitchen watching the somewhat familiar girl walk around in it. He knew that girl, at least she looked like someone he knew from life before. She looked like an older version of the girl he knew 10 years ago. He stared at her, hoping she would turn around to see her face, at least to see her eyes; he’d be able to recognize those gray eyes anywhere no matter how long it had been.
The girl in the kitchen turned, almost in slow motion, her hair moved across her face as she laughed at something Carol had said from the other room. She stopped dead her gray eyes focused on him. She dropped the box she was holding.
“Oh my god. Daryl? Daryl Dixon?” she whispered, still obviously in shock and not believing what she was seeing.
“Jess?” he answered in his gruff voice almost inaudibly. She ran at him tripping slightly over the box she had just dropped and falling into him. He caught her effortlessly, pulling her off the ground into a hug.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” she held onto him as if her life depended on it, tears starting to run down her face as she buried it in his shoulder. He stood silently holding her unsure of what to say.
“What’s going on?” Carol ran out into the room hearing the slight commotion. She stopped shocked at what she was seeing. Tara and Sam came into the room as well.
“Jess?” Sam asked confused.
Daryl put her down, he wiped the tears from her eyes smiling at her, and she turned towards the rest of them still standing close to Daryl. “We, um, know each other.”
“We actually grew up together, until her family moved out of Georgia 10 years ago. We were teenagers the last time we saw each other,” Daryl looked at Carol.
“Well this is an interesting turn of events isn’t it?” Tara laughed having never seen Daryl actually smile before.
“I’m sorry I dropped the detergent, I’ll clean it up,” Jess was blushing and moved to get the broom that she had seen in the wash room.
“Glad to see you actually showered,” Carol looked at Daryl slyly.
“Yeah, got a couple months of dirt off of me,” Daryl laughed, “Who is this?” he tilted his head towards Sam.
“I’m Sam, I’ve known Jess since she moved here, and she’s mentioned you, a lot actually,” Sam laughed, “I’m glad to see you’re alive, and I’m sure she is too.”
“Why don’t we move out of the way?” Carol ushered Tara and Sam into the living room leaving Daryl and Jess alone in the kitchen. Jess began to sweep up the powder that was on the floor.
“I didn’t know how to contact you…” Daryl leaned against the cabinets.
“It’s fine. I guess Merle never gave you my message when I called the last time did he?”
“No, he told me that you were going off to college and you just wanted to tell me goodbye.”
Jess scoffed, “Oh really that’s what he told you? Because if I remember that conversation correctly I told him to have you call me, I had an apartment with an extra bedroom, I wanted you to move in with me. To get away from that place. Where is Merle by the way?”
“He’s gone.”
“I’m sorry. I-I didn’t know. I didn’t mean to make out that he was…”
“He was just trying to protect me you know. He thought he’d be able to look after me better than you could have.”
“You were 20 years old. You didn’t need to be taken care of any more. You needed to get away from that place.”
“I know.” He looked down at her as she swept the powder into the dust pan, “I wanted to believe him though, I knew I couldn’t be anything that you needed in your life. That it was just a matter of time before you found that out for yourself and left me again. I don’t get close to people. They all leave you in the end.”
“You’re an idiot Daryl Dixon.” She stood up glaring at him. She turned taking the dust pan to the sink and pouring as much of it back in the box as she could.
“Well, fine then I’m an idiot. I think it’ll be better for both of us if we just kept on. No need for us to relive the past. It’s just going to end the same way. But this time either one of us could be the one that leaves.”
“Fine. You want to be that way you go ahead and be that way. I thought you might have grown up in 10 years, especially with all the shit going on out there. You can’t push everyone away all the time, this is a different world. You learn to hang onto the people you have for as long as you can, because you don’t know when your last day is with them.” She threw the broom and the dust pan at him, turned and walked out. Daryl gaped at her as held onto the broom and dust pan. She walked past the others and out the front door slamming it behind her.
“Um I guess I’m going to see what happened…” Sam got up and followed Jess out of the front door, walking past Rick and Michonne who were coming up the front steps. “Jess hold on,” she called out as she ran to catch up with her.
The two walked into the house, extremely confused about who the two girls were that had just left. “Does someone want to explain what just happened?” Michonne looked at the others.
Daryl was silent, he looked towards Tara and Carol. Carol sighed, “Oh come on. Those two girls came over to introduce themselves, the one was out of Alexandria the past few days and they wanted to case us for themselves,” she glanced at Rick’s face, “Yeah that’s what I said Rick, they know this is just a façade, those two were the last group that Alexandria let in. They know what it’s like out there, and they know that this community is weak, but it’s the best chance any of us have. The one girl was a Medic in the Air Force, the other says she worked a desk job, but you can tell that she’s more than what she seems. And I’m sure Daryl over her could tell us a lot more about her. Couldn’t you Daryl?” Everyone turned towards Daryl.
“What is she talking about Daryl?” Rick looked at him only some of his confusion alleviated.
“I grew up with Jess, she lived down the road from me. Our moms’ were friends until mine got sick. Her mom visited as much as she could but no one could stand my father, and him being home as much as he was that didn’t leave much of a window for anyone to be there. She was 15 when they moved out of Georgia I lost contact with her when she was 18. She was a tough kid growing up, she mostly hung around me and a few of the other guys in the neighborhood, she’s probably the only reason we didn’t get into trouble she could talk her way out of anything.”
“Well we know that they survived out there, and that’s enough to make them people to watch.” Rick sat down on the couch as the others followed suit. “They could be useful, they’ve been here a while, I’m sure they know more about this place than anyone else is going to be willing to tell us.”
“We should invite them over for dinner,” everyone looked at Carol, “That’s the best way to cover ourselves. Any on looker will think that we’re just trying to connect with another group of people who were just like us. To see how they’ve adapted. It honestly couldn’t be any more perfect.”
“Carol’s right,” Michonne spoke up, “It’s a perfect cover to talk to them, and especially if what they told Carol is true. Everyone else here has been here for years, or since the beginning, it wouldn’t make sense for us to talk to them right away we would have nothing that connected us. At least with these two we have the fact that they were out there, they were like us. We need to talk to them. All of us need to talk to them. We need first-hand experience with this place. We only see what they want us to see. We should watch the tapes too. Just to see what they said to Deanna.”
“I’ll go over and ask them if you want?” Tara interjected, “I talked to Sam, the one from the Air Force for a little before they left. I wouldn’t mind going over.”
“That’ll be fine,” Rick looked at Carol, “Do you have everything you need to make a dinner that big?”
Carol laughed, “I may have to make a trip to the pantry, but I’m sure they’ll let me have what I need, they’ll probably be more willing if someone would hunt for more than just himself.” She looked at Daryl.

“Fine. I was tracking some Deer earlier today, maybe I’ll find them tomorrow. Do the dinner tomorrow,” he walked out of the house and lit a cigarette.

He could hear them still talking about the faux dinner they were planning and how they would fit everyone in one house. He didn’t care. He wanted to go to the house next door and sneak in through Jess’ window like he used to. He wanted to talk to her and tell her about everyone that he had lost and what had happened while he was out there. After the way they left things earlier he wasn’t sure what he could say to her to make her see he just didn’t want to lose her too, and it was easier for him to think of her as already lost. Like he had every day since this all started. That’s what kept him from leaving Merle and heading this way. He convinced himself she was already gone.
He lit another cigarette and watched the light turn on in an upstairs bedroom at her house. It was his luck that it was her room, he watched her brush through her long hair. She stripped her clothes off and changed into an oversized shirt that he recognized as one of his from a long time ago. He ducked into the shadow as he saw her make her way to her window to open it, she looked out of it for a few moments before she turned shut off the lights and he assumed went to bed.

Chapter Text

He smiled at the memory of her leaving her window open for him when they were younger, he’d sneak in as often as he could, they’d sit and talk, and as they got older… he sighed. He couldn’t let himself get attached to her again. She wasn’t that same girl he knew when he was growing up, she was older now; and this world changed people, it changed him.
He sat down on the banister and leaned against the pole looking out over the empty street. Lights were on in houses, he saw T.V.’s turned on and playing movies as families sat on their couches together. This wasn’t a world he had ever known. The T.V. in his house had barely worked, and even when it did his old man was the only one who turned it on. He had spent most of his time in the woods. Camping had gone from something he had to learn, to something he did to get away from his dad.
He was made for the world as it was now, not the one that everyone was used to. The front door opened and Carol walked out, she leaned on the railing next to his feet. “So interesting day?”
“I guess you could say that,” he tried to seem uninterested. Carol got the hint and surveyed the neighborhood around them.
“Who could have imagined that people would be sitting at home, watching movies like nothing was going on past these walls?” she laughed to herself, “It’s still the same world out there, but in here…God I don’t even remember this world.” Daryl looked up at her, knowing that her life wasn’t easy now or then.
“This world don’t exist,” he grunted at her as he flicked the cigarette he was smoking into the street.
“Of course it exists Daryl, we’re standing on our front porch in the middle of post-apocalyptic suburbia. These people don’t know what is happening beyond these walls. Who knows if they ever did? Deanna said that northern Virginia was almost completely evacuated before it got really bad, so they didn’t have to survive like we did. They just had to do without the niceties of life; no lights, or showers. I highly doubt anyone in this place has had to kill more than a handful of Walkers; and I’m sure as hell they’ve never had to kill someone who was still alive.”
Daryl sat silently listening to Carol talk. Who was he to tell them that he didn’t want to stay here, that this place was going to make them all weak no matter what Rick believed. “We ain’t like these people you know, not now. Hell me I never was.” Carol put her hand on his leg and smiled.
“You know we might all be able to find some kind of safety here, whether it’s living under Deanna’s law or if we have to take this place like Rick said. There is a sense of safety here,” Daryl looked at her as she spoke wondering if she was talking about him meeting up with someone from his past. Someone he had effectively chose to assume was dead.
“Well I’m going to bed. It’s nice being able to sleep in one instead of on the ground every night,” she kissed his forehead and went back inside.
“G’night,” Daryl said to her as she walked away. After a few minutes he picked up his cross bow and slung it on his shoulder. He wasn’t ready to sit down and just accept this town as it was. He moved from the porch silently and walked in the shadows on the streets. He wanted to see if he could get a feel for this place while everyone else lived in their fantasy.
*~*~*
The next morning Jess woke up long before the sun rose. She laid in her bed, thinking about the night before. Seeing him again, threw her. She wasn’t expecting to run into him here, she always hoped that one day she’d make her way down to Georgia and she’d find him in the woods near his home town held up in a tent surviving. To find him here, with a group and without Merle, that was a shock to the system.
She rolled on her side, now face to face with a small black cat whose green eyes were focused on her. “Mr. Binx, how did the world become…this” she sighed. The cat closed his eyes and laid back down on the bed, ignoring her. Slowly but surely Jess got out of bed, grabbing clothes she made her way to her bathroom. Laughing to herself that after 6 months she still wasn’t used to it.
She walked down the stairs to the main living area about 20 minutes later dressed only slightly differently from the day before. Wearing a plain black t-shirt and jeans that weren’t as tight as her black ones. “I’m never going to get over the joy I feel, that comes with being able to use a hair dryer.” Sam looked up from her coffee and laughed.
“Of course, and the fact that we’ve still got a fully stocked supply of makeup at our disposal,” Sam bit her toast.
“Hey you wanted to loot the Sephora as much as I did,” Jess pulled a mug off the shelf and began making herself a cup of tea, “I wasn’t going to live in the zombie apocalypse and not have any good black eyeliner. You know how weird I look when I have no eyeliner on these eyes!” she stared at Sam pretending to pout.
“Yes I know how creepy and weird you look with or without black eyeliner,” Jess shot her a look over her shoulder as she continued making a cup of tea, Sam laughed, “but that’s why I was totally for taking as much makeup as we could, whenever we found any. Just because we’re total badasses doesn’t mean we can’t be superhot total badasses.”
“Cheers to that!” Jess held up her mug as she sat down at the table with Sam and they clinked them together. Jess stole a piece of Sam’s toast, “So what advances in the medical field are you going to try to make for us today?”
“I’m gonna mush up some plants and make something to drink for the family that has the coughing kid. He’s just got a cold, so thankfully I don’t have to use what little real medication I have left on him, but it’ll be enough to soothe the cough and make him feel better more quickly.”
Jess put her head down on the table, “You’ve got to be kidding me? We’re almost out of medical supplies already? What the hell are people that stupid that they are still trying to take an aspirin every time they think they have a headache?” she glanced up at Sam who rolled her eyes, “This place is seriously way too weak. The world isn’t the same out there, we’ve got to teach them to conserve this shit. There is no one who is going to make more when we run out.”
“Try telling them that. The people who have been here since the beginning don’t get it. Only the ones who have had to survive out there know that all of this can be taken away any second and that last painkiller could be the difference between life and death if something really happened. But you’ve got to get down to the pantry, you know keeping that awesome log of how many rolls of toilet paper we have left.”
Jess groaned. She knew that most of the jobs were relatively mindless, just something to keep the people inside Alexandria busy and out of trouble. But her’s drove her insane. She kept stock of all the food and supplies that went in and out of the pantry. They took her off of the front when she started yelling at people for taking too much food for just two people. She got the job behind the scenes, rationing out the food depending on the size of the people in the house. And as she did that she kept a log of everything that was going out and everything that came in. Though it was usually a steady supply of intake, she knew that eventually things would start to slow and the food that they had would have to last them until they figured something else out.
Since the pantry wasn’t constantly busy, they also were the people who made the food for those who couldn’t. She knew that she’d be seeing Carol there, since that is the job she said she had been given. This would give her some time to see what happened to Daryl out there, she knew he was hurting, but she also knew that unless she figured out how badly he was just going to pull away from her again.
“We also have dinner plans.” Jess picked up her head raising her eyebrow as she looked at Sam.
“Since when do we have dinner plans?”
“Since last night, Tara stopped by after you went to bed and she said that Rick, their group’s leader, wanted to have us over for dinner tonight. So they could get to know us, and our adjustment to Alexandria.” Sam waited for the initial groan that she was sure would come out of Jess’ mouth, but it didn’t come, “You know you’re going to have to be in a room with Daryl again…”
“Oh really am I?” Jess answered sarcastically, “I connected that piece when you said Tara since she was over there yesterday. I think she likes you by the way,” Jess winked at Sam.
“Really? You think? How can you tell?
Jess got up from her seat and put her cup in the sink and started to walk towards the door, “I guess you’re going to have to find out for yourself,” she stuck her tongue out, “but I must leave, the pantry isn’t going to organize itself is it!?” she walked out of the room and made her way towards the door hearing Sam behind her being angry because she wouldn’t give her any real information on why she thought Tara liked her.
Jess laughed as she walked down the street, in less than a week her world had gotten turned upside down once again; this time she hoped was for the better.

Chapter Text

The sun filled the sky when Daryl finally woke up sitting in a tree on the outside of the walls of Alexandria. He already saw that it was too easy for anyone to find their way in or out of this place, and that was not what he called safety. The walls were strong, but easily breached. He wondered if everyone slept in since he had yet to hear the children playing like they did when they first arrived.
Having no choice but to sneak back into Alexandria and back into his house and hope that no one saw him was the only way. The sun was up high in the sky so everyone was already awake he was sure, but he hoped that most of them had gone to their jobs and wouldn’t find him suspicious climbing over the barricade.
He made it back into his house without an incident and as far as he knew no one had seen him. The house was empty. He found his clothes laid out on a bed in a bedroom he assumed Carol had made up for him and changed back into them. Grabbing his crossbow and lifting it onto his shoulder he once again made his way to the gate. As he walked past the pantry he thought about how he was going to pull in a deer alone, and keep himself safe from the Walkers. He stopped on the street thinking that they might have walkies for this kind of situation. He knew Carol was there so he might as well stop in and ask her where they might be.
“Where the hell were you last night?!” Carol scolded him quietly so no one else could hear.
“I just had some thinking to do,” he answered in his same gruff tone, knowing that regardless of how quiet Carol was being he was going to attract attention and he wasn’t about to tell her where he was with onlookers. “I was thinking if I do get a deer I may need another hand to pull it in…”
“Take Carl with you, he’s been itching to get back outside these walls since that fight, Rick doesn’t want him out there alone but he already said that if you decided to go out today to hunt he should go with you. It’d be good for him to learn to.”
“Fine. Where is he?”
“Already waiting for you at the gate, he has a gun with him.” Daryl turned to leave, “Daryl, just be careful out there,” Carol touched his arm.
“I always am.” And with that he left. Carol watched him go before she went back in.
“Was he always like this?” She asked Jess who was counting cans on the floor.
“Mostly. He cares about you though. You can see that, he actually listens to what you say to him. He never had many friends, not real friends at least. Most of the kids we hung around stayed out of convenience. Merle and Daryl got into the most trouble, and had the most fun,” Jess laughed, “I was the one who talked our way out of getting in any real trouble. Well at least for Daryl and me, Merle was on a whole other destructive path, he was in and out of Juvi, and then Jail when he was older.”
“Oh we’ve met Merle. He wasn’t all bad though. He sacrificed himself to try and protect us, to protect Daryl.” Carol went silent as Jess put down the can she was holding.
“He always tried to, he didn’t always do a very good job at it, but I know he meant well somewhere deep down,” Jess smiled wistfully, “Daryl was always much stronger though, I don’t think he ever knew that, I still don’t think he realizes that he’s a lot stronger than he gives himself credit for.”
“He fell down a cliff onto one of his arrows, off a horse no less, and fought off some Walkers,” Carol paused, “Then he crawled back up the cliff and to the camp we were at. He made a necklace out of the ears.” She smiled fondly at the memory.
Jess looked up at her, “I’m sorry… a necklace out of ears? The rest I believe… but why ears?”
“Don’t know, never asked.” Carol laughed and handed Jess a clipboard which she took.
“I’m going to have to show you where the liquor is kept for this dinner tonight, I have a feeling we’re gonna need a few bottles.” Jess pulled herself up and led Carol down the hall.
*~*~*
“What do you think of this place?” Carl, pushed his hat back on his head to look up at Daryl.
“It’s four walls and a roof. That’s all there is to it.” Daryl kept moving forward.
“You know what I mean. They’re weak in there. They couldn’t survive out here, what if we get like that? My dad said he won’t let us but what happens when we aren’t going on runs, when we’re used to living this way?”
Daryl turned to Carl, “It ain’t gon’ happen. We’re too strong for that now, we’ve been out there too long to be able to settle in like a bunch of house cats.” Carl stopped surprised that Daryl had any kind of real answer.
“So you’re going to teach me how to track?”

Chapter Text

Sam sat at her desk in the room that was put aside as a make shift Dr.’s office in one of the empty buildings. It was kept empty in case it needed to be used as a hospital for the members of the community. It was just her there today the other nurse that they had, had the day off the Surgeon, Pete, was taking a few days off. ’A day off,’ Sam mused to herself, ‘who would have thought anyone could take a day off when the world became what it is.’ She swiveled the chair around to look at the shelves, behind her were some of the simpler medications. Stuff that would normally be found in a regular house’s medicine cabinet. She took a pad a paper and began making a list, things that they were running low on, supplies that they needed in a small community with children.
She sighed as she started counting. They had run through a lot of things that should have lasted them much longer. The people in Alexandria had no idea what it was like to be without, to have to deal with a little pain because there was no other option. This would be the downfall of this place if no one reigned it in. She tried to when she first got placed here, telling people that it was nothing to worry about and that a cup of tea or a little sleep would be able to cure what ailed them. They complained to Deanna, and she had to change her responses, giving people the absolute minimum that she could, to placate their feigned sicknesses.
Being trained as a combat medic helped elongate what they had, by using different plants she found inside and outside Alexandria. Deanna wasn’t concerned with the amounts that they had, believing that they could find more on runs and there was nothing to worry about. That seemed to be her motto, nothing to worry about. ‘The world has gone to hell, but there is nothing to worry about.’ Sam laughed at her own thought. “Nothing to worry about but the potential of being ripped apart the minute this place fails to keep everyone safe.” She mumbled aloud.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt or anything, but I was told to come here and see if you had any items to add to our list for the next run we’re going on.”
“Oh hi Tara, I didn’t know anyone was here,” she turned towards her and stood up, “I’m actually working on that right now. But to be honest everything that can be found out there should be brought back, it’s just safer that way. Take what you can when you’re there so someone else doesn’t get a hold of it later when we may really need it.” Sam handed her the list she had finished, “But Deanna doesn’t see it that way, so here’s the list.”
“Well couldn’t I just grab everything anyway? How would they know what was on the list if I accidently drop it while I’m out there?” Tara looked over the list, “This stuff can really make a difference?”
“In this world even a cough drop could make a difference. I’ve never dealt with someone who was going on a run who agreed with me. Maybe you and your friend heading this up will be a good thing. The more supplies the better in my opinion. Especially since it’s getting closer to winter, we could get stuck in here without a chance of getting out and run out of something that could be the difference between one person being sick to an epidemic.”
“I didn’t think about that, being from Georgia we got cold weather, but never anything that really had us trapped for a long period of time. I guess the further up we go the worse the weather becomes.”
“I’ve lived here my whole life, I know what the weather is like. It helps, the snow does, but it also makes it more dangerous out there. It slows down the Walkers, but it also makes it hard to see them on the ground especially if they’re buried by it.”
Tara shifted her weight, looking up at Sam and noticing the hint of makeup on her face, “You’re wearing makeup?”
Sam laughed, “Jess and I looted a few makeup places near D.C. before we came here. We pull more in, along with other supplies, when we go out on our own. It’s something that Jess wasn’t going to let go of, even in this world the way it is. And I have to say I must agree.”
“You and her are pretty close aren’t you? I know you said you’ve known each other since high school, it just must be nice…”
“It is, helps you keep your humanity honestly. Having a piece of who you were before all this happened, it helps you remember. That you weren’t always a killer, and that you’re not alone out here; no matter how long you’ve been out there for.”
They stared at each other for a few seconds, Sam blushing slightly.
“I brought lunch!!!!!” Jess pushed her way through the door using her butt to open it. “I figured I’d bring it to you since I knew you were the only one here today…. Well hello there Tara,” she smiled slyly, “I wasn’t expecting to see you here. I have enough for us all to split if you want some.”
“I –uh don’t want to impose on you guys—“
“No really it’s not a problem, we don’t mind it’s just been us for so long it’s nice to have another person join us,” Sam cleared her desk as Jess set down the food.
“Seriously I’m tired of just talking to her,” Jess laughed pulling up chairs. Tara smiled and took a seat across from Sam, Jess sat at the corner.
“How long have you two been together?” Tara asked after taking a bite of the sandwich Jess put in front of her.
“Well we lived together before the shit hit, and friends since high school, so what like over 10 years right Jess?” Sam looked over at Jess who was shoving food into her mouth. Jess looked up and managed a yeah through her food and continued to eat.
“Wow. That’s really awesome that you guys survived so long. I’d be so happy if I had my girlfriend with me for that long, to get me through all this crap—“
“Tara… we’re not together…together. We’re just best friends,” Jess laughed. Sam choked on her drink.
“Oh I didn’t know that’s what you were asking… no… no we’re not together that way. We’ve just been friends… My girlfriend was killed in combat a few years before all this happened…”
“And I like boys!” Jess interjected, silently laughing at the awkward situation that was unraveling.
“Well that was awkward… I’m really sorry for assuming… Thanks for the lunch but I’ve got to get back to Glenn with this list,” Tara stood and quickly made her way to the door.
“I told you she had a thing for you, I did not however think that she thought that we were together, together,” Jess laughed, “stop dressing like me and people won’t be so inclined to think that.”
“Oh shut up,” Sam threw a chip at her.

Chapter Text

“Got a buck,” Daryl dropped the carcass outside the door to the pantry, “Where’m I supposed to clean it?”
“Probably not in front of the building, let me ask Jess to see if she knows of a better place.” Carol stepped back into the door to go look for Jess.
Daryl lit a cigarette and leaned against the building front one foot on the wall behind him, his cross bow on the ground to his right, just in arms reach. Carl leaned up against the wall next to him and slid down until he was sitting on the ground. They found the buck fairly quickly, by noon he’d say, it just took them a while to get it back to Alexandria safely.
Carl had learned to track the deer, at least somewhat. He wasn’t the best at finding the tracks at first but once he did he knew how to follow them. Not nearly as silent moving through the woods as Daryl, but with a little work he could get there. Daryl was impressed with the kid for not settling into the community like the rest of the kids there seemed to; playing video games, and generally doing nothing. The kid had some pent up rage, but who wouldn’t? He had to kill his own mother that would tear anyone up.
Daryl flicked his cigarette wondering what the hell was taking so long, it had to be nearly 3pm and they had to clean it cut it and cook it. He turned towards the door about to go in when Jess ran into his chest. He grabbed her before she fell back and stood her up straight. “Thanks,” Jess mumbled slightly embarrassed at her clumsiness.
Carl stood up and looked at the two of them wondering what was going on. “I’m Carl, Rick’s son.”
“You take this down?” she turned to look at Carl avoiding eye contact with Daryl, “It looks like a clean shot, we can use all of the meat, we can use the hide too, as long as Daryl here knows how to clean it right.” She snuck a glance at Daryl who had already lit another cigarette. She wanted to scream at him, demand that he speak to her, but she knew that the he was still the annoyingly stubborn boy she had grown up with. That wasn’t about to change she was sure. He was an idiot she reconfirmed in her head.
“’Course I can clean it, just tell me where to take the damn thing.”
“Oh right, sorry,” She led them around the building into the alley. “Here’s fine, there’s a drain there so everything will run down it and we can get a hose to spray off the ground. There’s a place here where you can hang him up.” She looked at Daryl’s knives, “I can get you cleaner knives, probably sharper too, make it easier to save the cuts.”
“Yeah sure that’s fine.”
“Alrighty then, I’ll just send Carol out with the knives then. Thanks guys,” she turned to walk back to the door, “love the hat too by the way Carl.”
“She seems nice. Is that the girl that you knew? When you were my age?”
“Yeah, she lived in the nicer section in the neighborhood. That was a different girl, though. I’m not sure if I know this one yet.”
“Jess told me to bring these out to you guys. Daryl make sure you show Carl what you’re doing and not just do it.” Carol handed him a few knives.
“Do I look like a damn teacher to you?”
“Yes. Now hurry up I’m taking the other stuff back to the house now, there’s some people inside who will take whatever we’re not using.”
“We shot it! I don’t see why we have to share it with the people in this town. We wouldn’t have to if we weren’t staying here,” Carl turned to Daryl. Carol shrugged and walked away.
“You know as well as I do, it don’t matter. Might as well just do what she says and keep the peace… for now,” he stuck the knife into the deer and sliced it downwards.
*~*~*
Jess sat inside the pantry after she spoke to Daryl, fighting with herself about going back out there and punching him right in his face, or going home and pretending that he didn’t exist. Both of them sounded perfect to her, punching him sounded more satisfying though. She shook her head mad at herself for letting a damn Dixon make her feel like she was just a teenager again. She was 26, she survived for three years out there, just her and Sam. No man was going to make her feel insignificant, especially not a damn Dixon.
She stood up and did her final sweep of the place making sure none of the teenagers snuck in or any of the men that didn’t get enough liquor for the day. No one was left but a few of the older staff members who were just waiting on Carl and Daryl to finish with the deer so they could put it away. She threw the keys over the counter to them, waved good-bye, grabbed her bag of stuff and walked out. The sun was starting to set, she could feel the chill growing in the air as it moved closer to fall every day.
The streets were starting to empty, families all getting off ‘work’ and going home to eat their dinner, while the people who watched the gate were switching duty everyone else went home. She couldn’t believe how surreal this all felt to her, this wasn’t the world she knew anymore. She hadn’t known this world for three years, and yet here it almost seemed untouched. Lawns were perfectly manicured, people had jobs they went to almost every morning, weekends off, and even holding a make shift church service on Sundays. That was another thing that astonished her, they still knew what day of the week it was, what time it was, the month the year, everything. It’s as if everything else went to hell, while this place kept on.
When she and Sam first got there 6 months ago it had been the first time she knew what day it was of what month, or what time it was in nearly three years. She tried to keep track at first, Sam was better at that than she was. That could have just been because she had just stopped caring, she didn’t want to know how many days she survived, all she cared about was that she did it. Eventually Sam lost count, or lost her makeshift calendar, either way, Jess figured about a month or so into this new life she didn’t know or care to know anything related to the time.
Knowing the date and time was just a constant reminder of everything that was lost. Any hopes at a normal life were lost to her. Even if the people here were trying to play house, she knew she never could. She’d never feel safe enough to bring kids into a world torn apart. Let alone the dwindling population, leaving her with slim pickings of the male persuasion. A plus side to that was all the men that were left were most definitely Alpha males, Darwinism made sure of that she laughed. Marriage was something she never really thought about anyway, until of course now when they stopped existing.
The world was a quieter place now, she always thought the end of the world would be louder. It was at the beginning she remembered, but somehow everything just kept going, you learned to adapt and everything calmed down. There was no more screaming, no more bombs, barely any cars. It almost felt peaceful, at least while she was alone. The night sky was her favorite thing about this whole situation, everything was so clear. She could see almost every star in the sky. Just like she did in the woods of Georgia.
Everything always went back to Georgia for her, she grew up there she learned how to be who she was there. She sighed, her life started there, she hoped in her wildest dreams that maybe one day she’d end up back there and live out the rest of her life. But that dream was gone. It had been for a while now. She dreamed of going back, even after the world stopped. Not until about a year ago did she really realize that, that dream was all but lost. Survival was the number one priority.
Coming to Alexandria when they did was a godsend, they were out of food, out of water and running low on sleep. There was no real snow that winter, just bitter cold, it was a miracle they even survived it with what little they had. Moving from house to house avoiding Walkers at every turn. That was the one thing that they had no problem handling. She and Sam had more than enough weapons to survive on, and plenty of ammo when they needed to use the guns that they had. Every day she stayed in this place, she felt a stronger urge to go back out there and try it on her own again, it was just too perfect in this place.
“Well look who found her way back,” a male voice broke her reverie.
“Aiden, with the paths that you and your brother leave behind anyone could follow your trail right to the front gate,” she shot back as she turned around to watch him walk off his front porch and make his way to her.
“Oh come on now, there’s no one left here to worry about, we’re safe here,” he ran the back of his index finger down her cheek, “I’d do anything to make sure you stay safe here babe.”
She grabbed his hand and bent his finger back twisting his arm, “listen up, since you didn’t seem to understand the first thousand times I’ve said this to you I’m going to say it again. Slower this time so maybe it will get through your arrogantly thick skull, I-am-not-interested-in-your-protection.” She said through clenched teeth bending his arm further with each word. She let him go when she was finished and continued to walk.
“You’re going to regret that you little bitch,” he looked up and saw that she was already walking away from him, “don’t you walk away from me!” he yelled after her.
“Be careful Aiden, someone might hear you I don’t think Mommy wants to banish another male member of her family,” she shot over her shoulder and kept walking. She couldn’t wait to crack open that bottle of wine she had in her bag.

Chapter Text

Carol and Rosita stood in the kitchen amazed at all the things that were stocked in it. It was like a high quality chef had once lived there and left all their things behind. Tara was pulling out plates and setting them on the table, thankful that the rooms were open so that everyone could fit comfortable at the other make shift tables Eugene had found and pulled into the rooms. Noah and Carl brought over more plates from the other house so they would have enough for everyone. Abraham carried in a high chair and set it down near the head of the table knowing that Rick would be sitting there.
Sasha and Maggie came downstairs to see if they could help in the kitchen, knowing that there would be a lot of food to cook, and they needed to help as much as they could. “It’s starting to smell amazing down here Carol,” Maggie smiled, the first real smile she felt like she had had in months.
“It’s just pasta with meat sauce. Daryl and Carl shot a deer today and we found a grinder in a cabinet. And it all just fell into place. There are so many of us here and I figured it would be the quickest, and most filling meal we could make on such short notice.”
“Where is Daryl? Everyone else has gotten off of their jobs, except Rick and Michonne,” Sasha leaned against the counter tasting a noodle and smiling happy to finally have some real food.
“Amazingly he’s taking a shower,” Carol laughed, they all joined in knowing that Daryl didn’t normally care how dirty he was.
*~*~*
Rick and Michonne walked in silence as they made their way home from their rounds. Alexandria was a relatively quiet place, they only had to break up one fight between a couple of kids. They knew that Deanna thought there was more going on than just some teenagers fighting otherwise there would have been no need for them to have that job. If she had any real ideas on the matter she didn’t tell them anything that would be helpful.
“They here yet?” Rick asked Glenn who was sitting on the front porch with Gabriel.
“No, Carl and Daryl just brought back the venison about 30 minutes ago, Carol and the others are setting up and getting everything cooked,” Glenn looked up at Rick, “anything going on out there?”
“Nothin’ we saw, just some kids causing trouble. People aren’t looking too kindly on us quite yet, hopefully with Carol’s help and the supply runs you guys will be doing, it’ll start to help and we’ll get more information. Right now, we’re going to have to listen to what these two girls have to say to us tonight. They’ve been here awhile and been living out there just like us beforehand.”
“I watched there interview tapes today. I was with Deanna earlier since she wants me to work with her and learn about her type of government,” Maggie laughed a little, “I told her that I wanted to watch some of the tapes to get a feel for the people in town, I figured that would be a good thing since she wants me to learn everything else I should probably learn about the people as well,” they all stared at her waiting for her to get to the girls’ interviews. “Right, well, I watched theirs along with a few others today. Sam was an Air Force Medic like she told Tara last night, she has no family and was on a furlough when everything started to happen. She couldn’t report to base when she tried because they had closed everyone out trying to contain the outbreak and evacuate anyone still living. She’s been out there with Jess ever since.”
“And Jess? The little one that Daryl knows?” Michonne leaned against the house waiting for Maggie’s answer.
She laughed,” Ha well she’s much more of a closed book. She worked a desk job before everything started, said she survived with Sam since the beginning. Not really much more was said about her that we don’t already know. They both know their way around knives. Sam, like you Michonne, favors longer knives, double swords on her back actually.”
“Well that’s not really much more information.” Michonne sighed.
“I guess we’ll just see what they have to say tonight. Keep your guards up, since we don’t know them. They could be trying to get information for Deanna about us--” Rick was cut off by a gruff scoff.
“I tell ya’ll right now Jess ain’t gon’ sell none of us out,” Daryl walked out of the shadow into the small circle of light the front porch had, “and if she trusts Sam, then we should too.” Daryl swung a leg on the banister and leaned back on the post, taking a hit from his cigarette, “I grew up with that girl, she may look small, but she’s tougher than most of the men here.”
“I know where you’re coming from Daryl. I understand you want to trust her, but you don’t know that girl anymore. This world changes people, it’s changed us. I knew Shane since we were kids and look what happened. We can’t trust her yet.”
“You don’t know shit ‘bout her,” Daryl got defensive, but didn’t move from his seat on the banister.
“We need to get to know them, and not just trust that you knew her Daryl. You’ve got to see that,” Michonne looked at him sympathetically, “We’re not going to talk to them with a closed mind, we have got to be safe. Even now.”
“Yeah, I guess ya’ll are right. I knew who she was, but I don’t know this girl.” He flicked his cigarette and walked to the door, “Ya’ll comin’ Tara said they’ll be here soon.”
The small congregation on the porch made their way inside, the house smelled delicious as the food cooked. Rosita was setting the table and Abraham was relaying food from the kitchen to the tables as Carol directed. Judith was already sitting in her high chair next to Carl.
Sam knocked on the door, hearing the movement inside knowing that everyone was anxious. Jess was quiet since she had gotten home, which was unusual for her, but that was something she’d have to worry about later; right now they needed to find out what they could about the people living in the houses next to them. A young black boy answered the door, “You guys must be Sam and Jess. I’m Noah,” he smiled at them and opened the door for them to come inside, the two walked inside taking in the sheer amount of people that were now in front of them. Jess shifted uncomfortably, “Everything’s done we were just waiting on you guys so we could sit down.”
“Oh sorry we’re a little late, I was late coming home today, and Jess was waiting on me to leave,” the two of them made their way into the dining room where Rick was standing at the head of the table next to his baby and his son.
“It’s no problem, we’re still getting used to running on actual time again. Why don’t you two sit down here and I’ll introduce you to everyone?” he gestured to the chairs on his left side. They knew that he’d want them closest to him so he’d be sure to hear any conversations that they were having, he was cautious. Jess liked that about him.
The two girls sat down and everyone filed in to what seemed like their assigned seats of importance. “I’m Rick Grimes, leader of this group, these are my kids Judith and Carl.” He gestured to the two kids on his right. And then he began to go around the room.
Michonne was next, then Carol, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Sasha, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Tara, and finally Noah. Jess was impressed by the amount of them that had survived together. Every other group she and Sam encountered were large at first, but the numbers began to dwindle as the weeks went on. Most of the time from the inadequacies of the people, but other times because they would turn on each other. The two girls would leave before the group became non-existent, never getting close to anyone knowing that eventually they’d be gone, or they would end up having to take care of them along the way.
Carol started to pass the food around, everyone filled their plates, no one willing to be the first one to start the conversation that they were all here to listen to. Jess looked up and saw that all eyes were on them, not obviously of course, but she knew that they were being looked at. Rick finally broke the silence, “So you’ve been here 6 months? It’s a big difference from being out there.”
“Barely anyone in this place knows what it’s like out there. Not really. None of them have been out there for as long as we have. Almost half of them have been here the entire time. Deanna and her family have no idea what it’s like living out there, with no safety,” Jess played with the food on her plate, “This place has only been safe because it hasn’t been threatened… yet.”
“The walls are easily breached,” Daryl said through the food in his mouth, “Barbed wire would stop that problem, just like at the prison.” Jess glanced over at him, he was facing Rick not noticing her at all.
“I noticed that too, you guys haven’t had any problems with outsiders getting in?” Rick turned back to the girls.
“There aren’t many people around here, constantly. They move through in waves sometimes, people thinking that there may be something left in D.C., people who either want to be saved, or try to take whatever was left over. We’ve met both kinds of people, we tried to avoid them no matter which group they fell into. The former becoming self-destructive once they realized that there was nothing left. The others, they just took what they could from whoever was left.” Sam looked back at Rick, “But since we’ve been here I haven’t heard of anyone getting in who wasn’t wanted. This place is pretty off the normal grid, I don’t think many people go this deep into the woods anymore.”
“They should still make it harder to get over the walls, that barbed wire would be a good idea around the entire place. Some of the people in here shouldn’t be trusted, and could be relaying information to someone out there, waiting until the right moment to really strike this place.” Jess looked at Daryl who was still effectively ignoring her.
The conversation continued, Sam and Jess told them about Deanna’s brother being one of the men that she had banished from the community along with two other men. They didn’t know the exact reasons why, but they thought that some of the other men still had contact with them. Sam had noticed some supplies left near a shed every now and then when she would go out with Jess. They had the same feelings as Rick’s group, they worried about getting too soft living in this place.
Eventually it didn’t become an interrogation and everyone started to relax, except for Daryl that is. He was staying quiet, only speaking when he was directly spoken to. Why Jess was worrying about Daryl, Sam kept sneaking glances towards Tara catching her looking back every now and again. When they made eye contact they both quickly looked down starting to blush.
The night went on, as both groups started to trust the other. Rosita told them why they had made the trek from Georgia, or in her, Abraham, and Eugene’s case Texas, to D.C. Noah told them about the hospital, not explaining in too much detail what had happened when they lost Beth. The stories went around the table until Judith was asleep and Rick looked at his watch seeing that it was almost midnight.
Sam helped Carol, Tara, and Maggie clear off the table as Sasha and Rosita did the dishes. The others started to break down the makeshift tables and putting the house back into order. Carl and Michonne took Judith back to Rick’s house to put her to bed, as the others who weren’t needed started to disperse. Daryl slipped out unnoticed as Rick was talking to Jess.
He wasn’t in the mood to stay around them. She was still the girl that he knew all those years ago, he saw it in her eyes when she spoke. He wasn’t willing to get close to her, not again; he didn’t know if he could tell her about all of the things that he had done. Not just the generalized version of it, but the things that actually happened. The search for Sophia, Merle, Beth, and a million different things between. He stood in the shadows by the side entrance as he heard someone walk outside. A lighter sparked, as Jess walked around to the side where he was standing.
“Sorry I didn’t notice you come out here…”
“It’s fine. I didn’t know you smoked,” he stayed where he was, not wanting to move closer to her, yet not wanting to just leave.
“Surprising what happens isn’t it? The stupid changes that people make, the things that stay the same.” She inhaled, “you don’t want me around do you?”
“Doesn’t matter to me.” He shifted his weight, “do what you want.”
Jess laughed sarcastically, “Oh for me to do what I want, I’d never set foot in this place again, but I know I can’t do that. Especially with winter coming in, leaving would be suicide.”
Daryl grunted. Knowing that she was probably right, the winters had to be different up here he hadn’t thought about that. What he wouldn’t give to be able to walk away from this place and not look back. He didn’t know these woods though, or how the weather would change; he knew he was stuck there for the foreseeable future.
“You know you could actually use full sentences when you speak. I know you know how to,” Jess glanced at him smiling slightly.
“Don’t have much to say is all,” he flicked the butt of the cigarette, and walked past her.
“Great chat,” Jess sighed and leaned against the house.