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that trail remains unseen

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Kenny likes Lee. He plays up the friendliness a little, but not much; it comes naturally, and with Lee it seeps out of him instantly. Having Lee with his family is nothing but an advantage, a second pair of hands to defend their loved ones. Anyone a cute little thing like Clem decides she can trust has to be trustworthy. Kids got weird senses like that. Or, well, sensible kids do. As much as he loves his son he wouldn't say Duck is sensible, while Clem is as smart as Duck is dumb.

They don't spend much time at the farm, after all. Kenny doesn't like thinking about it, but finds it difficult. Thankfully the safety of his family is something to pour himself into, and although he's not glad that their life is in danger, it's a reprieve not to be able to linger on that boy's death.

Kenny liked Lee. The distinction having to be made isn't as gut wrenching as it should be. After losing your wife and your son, you kind of start to shut down. That's what he tells himself, anyways, sitting in a locked up shed in the middle of Savannah, a bottle of whiskey between his outstretched legs. He takes a swig, tastes the fire down his throat, and laughs at himself. This is exactly what Lee wouldn't want him to be doing.

He made out of that hoard, somehow, but now he's lost. He doesn't know where Lee or Clem are, if they're even alive. He found the hotel, the room with the body in it, but no indication of where either of them went next.

So for now, he drinks. In the morning, he'll start looking for her. already he hears Lee yelling at him and telling him to put that down and get off his ass, but the voice isn't as loud as the flashing images of Katjaa wiping grime off of Duck's face as he talked his own face off at her. Her sweet smile, the slightly exasperated but loving glance she'd thrown at him to say this is what we made, Ken, you're as responsible as I am, teasing.

When he wakes up, his eyes are crusted together, and he rubs at them with a groan. There's a hangover, which is surprising as he'd always been able to hold his liquor. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he can't remember the last time he had a meal. Hell, he doesn't remember the last time he ate anything at all.

Surviving becomes the easy part. He has no one to fucking worry about anymore, no one to keep an eye on wherever they go. He sticks around Savannah for a few days, circling around neighbourhoods and stores and places that look like safe houses. He doesn't call for them, remains quiet and stealthy as he can be. It quickly becomes infuriating, as there's no way to tell he's not missing them by a few feet, slinking away as he makes his way inside, and the thought is enough to fill him with a burning, boiling rage. 

He doesn't find either of them. He stops thinking about them, and starts thinking about her. There is no them, not by now, can't possibly be.  

Wherever Clementine is, it's no longer in town. 

 

He leaves Savannah with nothing but a shotgun and a few extra rounds of ammo.  

He leaves another part of himself behind.

 


 

Kenny keeps looking. They had planned this all so fucking poorly that he can't even think of where Clem would try to go, where she'd try and seek safety. Past the boats, past thinking water would be the safest place, there had been nothing. He hopes Omid or Christa found her, he hopes she's being smart and keeping away from strangers. 

He travels alone. He kept the bottle of whiskey, but he doesn't trust himself with it. A part of him thinks it doesn't even fucking matter anymore, if he's gonna get drunk and get chomped, it won't be a big loss. That's when he remembers Katjaa scowling at him, Lee yelling, Clem looking at him with a saddened, disappointed look. Duck's the only one smiling, but only because he doesn't really understand, and it only makes Kenny want to make sure he never has to.

One night he finds a cabin in the woods. He makes a bed in it after making the door safe and checking for any other entries to block. He hasn't been sleeping much. The dreams are awful, and if he can avoid the vision of his family torn apart or shot or bitten, he will, thank you very much. He just knows sleep deprivation can be more dangerous than alcohol itself, so when he finds a safe place he rests as much as he can.

When he wakes up in the middle of the night, sweating despite shivering under a thin, worn blanket, he remembers a night on the train, right after -- right after everything. He'd woken up kicking and screaming, reaching for his wife and his son, finding nothing in their place.

Lee had been nearby. They had all bunked in the same place, within respectable distance, without overtly agreeing to it. They'd fallen into place like that, close enough to reach. Kenny had heard some shuffling and glanced aside to see Lee had scooted closer, not quite touching him but close enough to be a presence.

"It was just a dream," Lee said, and Kenny let out a harsh exhale before looking away. He didn't say anything, until he'd felt a hand give his shoulder a firm squeeze. For some reason the gesture called within him the desire to justify this, this friendship he'd built with Lee.

His family was gone and Lee had been there this whole time, even through the fucking bullshit. Even when he wasn't there, in a way, he kind of was. 

"I'm not -- I'm not a fucking -- " Kenny said. There was a pause before Lee spoke again.

"What?" Lee's hand was gone now, leaving a fading warmth in it's wake. 

"I have a wife," Kenny said, more petulant than he meant to. Had, his mind supplied. Lee didn't correct him, instead Lee made a sound that Kenny thought was a laugh, so he gave the guy a fucking slap on the arm for it. "Asshole," Kenny hissed. It wasn't really time to laugh, not when he was the one that woke Lee up with all his screaming from his damn nightmares.

He just wished he didn't feel as fucking weird as he did about how close Lee was lying next to him. Lee didn't say much else after that, and when Kenny dozed it was to the sound of Lee's breathing nearby, close enough to fill his ears. 

Now Lee's gone, and Kenny had thought this shit to be kind of off, if he was honest. It was weird to be comforted by your male friend's breathing near you, by their warmth. It didn't matter that he'd lost his family in a really messed up situation; if someone had noticed how close Lee had been they could've talked.

Now Lee's gone, and Kenny is alone in a cabin in the woods, and he thinks if he can't have his family, he wishes he could at least have the one he'd chosen.

A few days later, he meets Sarita. She's soft spoken and gentle, and she takes to him without asking questions and without prying. It's exactly what Kenny needs, and so he doesn't tell her anything. She quickly becomes someone he can rely on, and her kindness and glow soothe him. 

She reminds him of Katjaa.

He feels a spark, like maybe he can have another chance, like maybe he'll stop feeling so angry and messed up. Like maybe if this stops, if they make it, if humanity survives, he'll give fatherhood another try.


 

Kenny knows Sarita suspects there's stuff he hasn't told her. She knows something happened to him, but hasn't something happened to all of them? Isn't this the new normal, to have some fucked up, messed up story to tell about how you got to be where you are?

Thinking about it too long fills him with guilt, that he's kept so much from her -- Katjaa and Duck and Larry and Lee and Clem. The number of times Lee stuck to him and his family, saved Duck's life and Katjaa's, the number of times Lee pissed him right the fuck off for taking a different stance, how he still thinks he can hear Duck humming a song upstairs sometimes, holding his wife's dead body with the certainty that she'd done them wrong, the sting of that betrayal still echoing later when they came across the bodies of that couple.

He doesn't tell her sometimes he still watches for a little head running around in a crowd, that sometimes he'll see a child from behind and fix it until it turns around and looks nothing like Duck or Clementine.


 

Seeing her again after all this time is like riding a fucking time machine. Suddenly he's over 2 years back in time, and Katjaa and Duck can't be too far, Lee about to walk up behind Clem -- but that's no true, and she hugs him, tight, and she's taller and bigger and he feels proud, so fucking proud that she made it this far, this long. Lee isn't there, and his absence is an obvious void, a paradox of emptiness as emptiness is rarely ever felt so strongly.

Clementine is alive, and that's so much more than he could hope for, and he has to swallow down the lump in his throat. They sit near the Christmas tree, the fire crackling and keeping them warm. It's like some kind of storybook, this shit doesn't happen in real life. No, in real life the apocalypse comes and people lie and betray and you're faced with choices you'd never want to make and you do things you never would and people still get bitten and turn and ideally die with a bullet in their brain. 

It's her, though, blinking up at him. They talk about Lee, about Clementine's new group of friends; he teases her about her hat, remembers Lee caring about her having that thing as much as he cared about the walkie. She seems well, or as well as someone can be for a girl her age making it out during the end of the world.

When it's dinner time she sits with him, and Kenny can't lie, that makes his heart swell a little. Trust is so rare these days that to see someone so willingly take his side is a pleasant surprise. He's already thinking about where they could set up her bed -- near his room, if she wants. Maybe one of the nice ones near the big windows, so she can see how nice the view is when the sun sets in the evening.

He makes a stupid joke, feeling a lot happier than he had in a long time, and Clem's smile makes him ache; he wonders how Lee would have felt to see her get this far. No one loved Clem more than he did, and Kenny felt such a burst towards her as she ran up to him that he can't imagine what Lee would have -- not that it matters, but fuck, he wishes Lee could see this.

She makes a snarky comment at one of the guys being a jerk to her and Kenny cackles to himself. Yeah, she's Lee's girl, for sure. She's softer with the other one, the one without the cap. 

They don't get a lot of time before things turn to shit. Things had suddenly started to feel a little more right, but there's a storm on the way and their generators fail, just in time for the group's old friends to show up.

Everything becomes fucked up again in the blink of an eye. There's threats and broken fingers and that other little girl Sarah crying; there's a pregnant woman giving herself in, some guy being gross, gunshots, bullets to the head, screams. 

Soon enough they're being rounded up. Soon enough he remembers all this crap he had to deal with when they were grouped, and how he didn't have to do this shit when he was alone.

Clem's hand finds it's way in his, though, and he gives it a firm squeeze and tells himself that's his life now: following Lee's footsteps, taking care of Clem, and keeping her safe.

If that's the way he's gonna go, he's alright with it.