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If It's Meant To Be, It'll Be

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King County, Georgia.

 

It was a relatively small town where everyone knew each other and their business. The small town had its own police force with about a handful of people on the payroll. It had one stoplight and some lights around the town to make it somewhat lit. They had a handful of stop signs and it was the safest town around, in Rick’s opinion.

 

Rick was bi-sexual and even though Shane and his parents knew that about him, he kept that part of his life a to himself. No one knew about his high school sweetheart, Daryl. Daryl Dixon. That name stuck with him and probably would for the rest of his life. He gave Daryl his whole heart and never got it back. They made plans to be together forever, for the rest of their lives and have a family and move out of that podunk town. But when push came to shove, their relationship ended. Neither being able to deal with the stress of the real world and realizing that they were going in two different directions. Daryl moved away after graduation and Rick moved onto Atlanta to the police academy.

 

Rick was married to Lori whom he had met in Atlanta and had Carl, their almost nine-year-old. Their marriage was on the rocks and he stayed away from Lori as much as he could but with having a child it was a thousand times harder than he had expected. He and Shane were on the force together and of course, Shane was always the one who he vented and ranted about Lori too.

 

It was a smoldering day in that small town, the heat coming off the asphalt in waves. Rick and Shane sat in their cruiser eating their lunches as they did regularly. They had their cheeseburgers, fries, and cokes just talking about regular shit.

 

“What’s the difference between men and women?” Rick asked as he handed his partner a napkin.

 

“This a joke?” Shane countered back as he grabbed the napkin and wiped his mouth.

 

“No, I’m serious.” Rick sighed, dipped his fries in his ketchup and took a bite.

 

“I never met a woman who knew how to turn off a light,-” Shane spoke, dipping his fries in his friend's ketchup, “They’re born thinkin’ that the switch just goes one way… on.”

 

Rick looked through the windshield, muttering to himself and sighed.

 

“They’re struck blind as soon as they leave the room. I mean every woman that I ever let have a key… I swear to god, it’s like I come home, the house is all lit up…” Shane chuckled as Rick continued to eat his fries. “And my job, y’see, apparently because my chromosomes happen to be different is, I’ve got to walk through that house and turn off every single light that this chick left on.” Shane sighed as he and Rick looked at one another.

 

“Is that right?” Rick asked and smiled.

 

“Yeah, baby. Mmm. Oh, Reverend Shane is preaching to you now, boy.” He laughed and watched as Rick began to laugh too. “Then, this same chick mind you, she’ll bitch about global warming. And see, this is where Reverend Shane wants to quote from the guy gospel and say, ‘Darling, maybe you and every other pair of boobs on this planet just figure out that the light switch, you see, go both ways, maybe we wouldn’t have so much global warming.’

 

Rick chuckled, laid his head against his headrest and looked at his best friend.

 

“You say that?” Rick cordially asked.

 

“Mmm... Yeah, polite version,” He laughed, “Still, man, that earns me this look of loathing that you would not believe. And y’see, that’s where the exorcist's voice pops out. “You sound just like my damn father! Always yelling about the power bill, telling me to turn off the damn lights!”

 

“Mmm, and what do you say to that?” Rick asked while chewing some of his food.

 

“I know what I want to say. I want to say, ‘Bitch, you mean to tell me, you’ve been hearing this your entire life, and you’re still too damn stupid to learn how to turn off a switch?’

 

Rick and Shane laughed as they continued to pick at their food.

 

“Y’know, I don’t actually say that though.”

 

“That would be bad…” Rick laughed and turned his head towards his partner who was laughing with him.

 

“Right, Right.” Shane commented with a light chuckle, “Yeah, I go with the polite version there too.”

 

“Very wise,” Rick said with a soft grin on his face.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Rick smiled, turned his head to his window and stared out for a moment, all to be brought back by Shane’s question.

 

“So, how’s it with Lori, man?”

 

“She’s good… She’s good at turning off lights. Really good. I’m the one who forgets sometimes.”

 

“Not what I meant…” Shane mumbled with his mouth full and cheeks popping out like a chipmunk.

 

Rick sighed, looking down with a sad expression on his face, “We didn’t have a great night.”

 

“Hey, look, man, I may have failed to amuse with my sermon, but I did try. The least you could do is…is speak.”

 

“That’s what she always says.” Rick sighed annoyed, as he felt his buttons being pressed. “Speak, speak. You’d think I was the most closed-mouth son of a bitch ever, to hear her tell it.” He grunted, shifting in his seat and putting his arm over his mouth.

 

Shane sat there, looking right at Rick, “Do you express your thoughts? Do you share your feelings, that kinda stuff?”

 

“The thing is, lately, whenever I try… everything I say makes her impatient. Like she didn’t want to hear it after all. It’s like she’s pissed at me all the time and I just don’t know why,” Rick answered as he stared off out of the window.

 

“Look, man, that’s just shit that couples go through. I bet your momma and daddy even went through it at some point. Yeah, it’s like a phase.”

 

Rick laughed, “The last thing she said this morning, ‘Sometimes I wonder if you care about us at all.’ She said that in front of our kid…'  He sighed, looked away and Shane turned and looked at him as well with heavy eyes. “The difference between men and women? I would never say something that cruel to her… and certainly not in front of Carl…” he sighed heavily as he and Shane locked eyes.

 

They breathed heavily with stress as the radio beeped through.

 

“All available units, high-speed pursuit in progress. Linden County units request local assistance. Highway 18 eastbound, GTA, ADW. 2-17, 2-4-3, advise extreme caution.”

 

Shane began bagging the trash as Rick started the car, turned the sirens on, and had started his way out of the parking lot. Shane throwing the food in the open trash can through the window. There was another car driving right behind Shane and Rick as they responded to helping out Linden County.

 

“Suspects are two Caucasians. Be advised, they have fired upon police officers. One Linden County officer is wounded.”

 

As they approached before the chase, they stopped the car and they got out, stretched the spike strip across the road and headed back to the car.

 

“Unit 1, Unit 3, to eastbound 18, two miles east of Interstate 85. Will patch into Linden County Sheriff radio.”

 

“Roger that, we’re five minutes south of the Route 18 intersection.”

 

“Dispatch, Unit 1 and Unit 3, we are 10-97 and code 100 highway 18 E.B of interstate, please advice.”

 

Rick put the vehicle in reverse and backed the car toward the other car to block the road from the oncoming vehicle in pursuit.

 

“10-9. We just got word from Linden County that they’re off 18, now southbound. Old French Road is closed down there, so they’re gonna head back onto 18.”

 

Shane, Rick, Leon, and Lam got out of their vehicles, drew their guns from the blockade in the middle of the street while the sirens grew closer to them.

 

“Sounds like they’re chasing those idiots up and down every back road we got,” Officer Kendal said aiming right to where the car was going to be coming from.

 

“Maybe we can get on one of them video shows, you know? Like worlds craziest police chases… what do you think?” Leon enthusiastically said as he stood opposite of the other three, weapon drawn.

 

“What I think, Leon is that you need to stay focused, make sure you got a round in the chamber and your safety off.”

 

As the sirens still grew closer, Leon realized his safety was on then turned it off as he looked back towards Rick and Shane. Rick rolled his eyes subtly.

 

“Would be kinda cool to be on one of them shows,” Shane said with a grin on his face, as he looked down at Rick who sighed knowing that Shane was encouraging Leon.

 

The car swerved left and right, over and over again with two other police cars chasing after them. It was only a matter of time before the car with the two suspects were going to hit the spike strips and they could get a handle on these two assholes… what could go wrong with six officers? As the car hit the strip, tires blew and the car rolled over repeatedly until it finally stopped, is when Rick had emerged from the side of the car, making his way towards the now totaled vehicle.

 

One of the suspects kicked the door repeatedly until the door finally opened and the guy got out, raising his gun towards the officers, shooting once again.

 

“Gun, gun, gun!” One of the Linden County police officers warned.

 

“Put it down!” Rick yelled as he was approaching. “Put the gun down!”

 

As the suspect started the shoot out towards the Linden County officers, he continued to move towards them. Rick was shot and screamed out in pain as he fell to the ground. Shane fired repeatedly until the man was killed in action. Then the other suspect got out of the car with a shotgun and fired towards Shane causing him to barely miss the buckshot. Linden County officers put him down within seconds.

 

“Rick!” Shane hollered as he made his way to his partner.

 

“I’m alright!” Rick wheezed as he reloaded his python and attempted to get up off the ground.

 

“I saw you get tagged, man. That scared the hell out of me.” Shane sighed, watching his friend.

 

“Me too,” Rick said out of breath, “That son of a bitch shot me. Can you believe that?”

 

“What? It catch you in your vest?” Shane asked watching as his friend unbuttoned his shirt.

 

Rick had his shirt unbuttoned to check the vest, “Yeah… and Shane? You don’t tell Lori that happened, ever. You understand?”

 

Within moments, a shot was fired, hitting Rick on his lower left side. He screamed out in pain, falling on the ground. Shane raised his gun and shot the third man who they did not know was in the vehicle as the report only said two.

 

“Police! Move out!” the Linden County officers hollered.

 

“No no no no no no,” Shane muttered crawling to his fallen friend. “Shh shh shh! No no no no no no no no! He’s hit! Leon! You get that ambulance down here! You tell them there’s an officer down and you do it now!” Shane hollered then turned his attention back to Rick and put pressure on his wound who was hollering out in pain. “Okay, shh shh shh. I’m right here, Rick. Do you hear me? You stay with me! Shh, shh. That’s it. Do you hear me? Shh shh shh, okay. I’m right here with you. Stay with me! Shh shh. That’s right, stay with me, brother.”

 


_______________

 


Rick blinked multiple times as he came to after surgery. Oxygen tubing in his nose, excruciating pain in his side, and the pump beeping persistently. He sighed, pressing the button and eventually the nurse came in.

 

“What’s going on, honey?” She asked politely as she fixed the beeping on the machine.

 

“Pain.” He said with a raspy voice.

 

“I’ll get something right away. You’ve had a lot of visitors, and you’ve got some mail. Not sure if you’re feeling up to looking through it yet or not. But, if you feel like it then it’s right on the table there, honey.”

 

“Thanks.” He forced out as he watched the nurse walked out and frowned. He sighed heavily, reached over and saw the manilla envelope and grabbed it.

 

His name spelled out with Lori’s name in the return addressed spot. Such a lovely way to receive divorce papers after having gotten shot and surgery. He opened the envelope after a few long moments of struggling. After multiple attempts of getting the envelope open, he started reading them and sighed as he tossed them onto the bedside table and within seconds Lori appeared into his room.

 

She looked at him as he reached for his cup of water. He looked towards her and sighed. “Come on in, it’s been a party here.”

 

She slowly came into the room and took a seat close to the bed.

 

“Divorce papers? Really?” Rick asked, clearly irate.

 

“Filed them before this even happened, She muttered as she motioned around the hospital room.

 

“Weren’t gon’ tell me neither, right?” Rick asked as he groaned in pain to move himself up in the bed into a sitting position.

 

“They were supposed to be dropped off at the office. Thought we could plan on talking about it when you got off work, and then all of this happened. I didn’t know they were going to bring your mail from the station to the hospital.”

 

“But yet, here they are. Might as well talk about it now. It’s just kinda’ shitty you weren’t gonna talk about this decision that affects not just us, but our child too.”

 

“You’re still recovering from surgery, Rick. You aren’t inclined to talk about anything you don’t want to. I didn’t mean for this to happen like this.” She sighed as she sat her purse and coffee on the counter by the sink.

 

“Yeah, I didn’t think this would have been the best way to talk about it either but it’s here, Lori. So, let’s just get it done and over with, okay? It’s too late to sit down at dinner and talk,” He grumbled as he pressed his button that controlled the IV of pain medicine.

 

“Well, with your schedule with the department I was thinking you could have Carl every other weekend and one day through the week.”

 

“And you think that’s fair? There are seven days in a week, Lori.”

 

“You could have him hypothetically, Wednesday, and the weekends that you have him you would get him right after school all through Sunday evening. Plus, it’s not like we are moving anywhere, nor you, so let’s not forget about all the clubs and baseball games and things like that that he’s doing.”

 

“And you would have him Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday through Sunday…” He sighed trying to do the math in his head. “What about birthdays and holidays, Lori? Did you think that through?”

 

“My proposition on that would be major holidays, we split it up and his breaks. So this year, I would get him for Thanksgiving… You would get him for Christmas and half of his winter break.”

 

“And his birthdays?”

 

“What are your thoughts on just doing it together?” Lori asked as she looked through her paperwork that she always kept on herself.

 

“Then if that’s what we both think is best, then, I don’t want any issues. I don’t want drama, I don’t want anything like that. I don’t need to know who you’re sleeping with or anything anymore because it’s not my business.”

 

“You know who it is, Rick.” She whispered with her eyes descending to the floor.

 

“Well, lovely because that man saved my life,” Rick growled in annoyance. “Give me a pen.”

 

“Everything that we just agreed on is in the documents you have to sign.”

 

“Pages that they’re on?” Rick sighed and moved the table towards him so he could use it to sign the papers.

 

“Pages, five through ten,” Lori answered, handing him her pen.

 

Within moments, the divorce papers were signed and Lori had put them back in the envelope and back into her purse. She wrapped the purse around her shoulder and looked at him, “I am glad for Carl’s sake that you are safe and sound. I am happy that you made it through, and I am blessed to have this life that you had provided for us. I will always love you and you will always be apart of my life… And if you ever need me or help just call.” She sighed and made her way out of the room, leaving Rick alone with his button to be pushed to the max and he drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Days had become longer while Rick was in the hospital. He was honestly depressed about the divorce papers, not being able to be at the house with his son, and basically being bed-bound to the point where he could only be up to use the bathroom. He began refusing physical therapy and didn’t have any desire to eat. He was in a very deep dark hole and didn’t care. He had completely given up. He was put back on the oxygen, hooked up to an IV to give him fluids, and a heart monitor. He was done. He didn’t care. If anything at all, he knew deep down that his son knew that he loved him with all of his heart. 

 

Days became weeks and he was unconscious… Until that one day when he woke up. He looked at the ceiling, blinked his eyes a couple times and all he saw was a very shaky memory of Shane bringing in flowers and talking to him. His head was pounding, hard, and his mouth was as dry as cotton. 

 

“That vase, that’s somethin’ special. Fess up. Did you steal that from your Gramma’ Jean’s house?” He chuckled lightly, “I hope you left her that spoon collection.” He started laughing again into a rough coughing spell. 

 

“Shane? Shane, you in the john?” He turned his head, saw the vase, and reached over to the dried out flowers. As soon as he touched them they crumbled and fell onto the bedside table. 

 

Within moments, he started unhooking his pulse ox, ripped out his IV, and the oxygen tubing. He grabbed the IV pole to stand and he was down on the floor as soon as his feet touched the ground. “Nurse, Help!” he laid there waiting for someone to come rushing in and there was only silence, echoing the entire room. “Nurse, help!” 

 

He laid on the ground, groaning and almost in tears from the pain.  Rick swallowed the pain as deep as he possibly could and made himself get off the floor into a standing position. When he finally regained his balance, he stumbled into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. His facial hair was grown out and his left side was bandaged. He had no idea how long he was unconscious. He had no idea what happened at all since after he signed the divorce papers with Lori. It was all a blur. He turned the water on and immediately started chugging it. He literally felt like he was dying from thirst. 

 

Moments later, he opened the door and hobbled himself down to the nurses station. The lights were off, emergency lights were crackling and papers were everywhere. There were bullet holes in the walls, blood splattered everywhere and cables falling from the ceiling. When he reached the desk, he grabbed the phone and picked it up but there was no dial tone. He slammed the phone down and began rummaging around the desk only to find some matches. 

 

He began making his way around the abandoned ICU Floor, electrical hums in the background, and then when he turned the corner that led to another part of the unit, that is where he swallowed down the urge to vomit. A woman lied past the door, she was blonde and looked to be a nurse. Her intestines were on the ground around her, meat was torn off her bones and the bones were showing. He had no fucking idea on what he was seeing or if it was even real. 

 

He turned and headed down the other end of the hallway to where the cafeteria was located. He remembered where it was because that’s where he had sent Carl to sneak him some ice cream. There were more bullet holes, blood, papers and cables hanging down in the hallway. When he almost reached the doors, he looked puzzled at the sight of the doors being chain locked and spray paint that read: Don’t Open Dead Inside . The doors rattled against the locks, rotted hands were shoved through the doors, and Rick got back to the other side as fast as he could hobble. 

 

He reached the exit door, lit a match and made his way down the stairs. He went through almost the whole pack of matches. He finally reached the door that led him outside and as soon as he opened it, the smell of the dead and rotting flesh hit him so hard in the face. He couldn’t breathe but kept making his way through the lot. There were bodies lined up in white sheets, flies buzzing around, and all he could do was think of how much he needed to get home. He was scared shitless but he kept walking… because he needed to find his wife and son. 





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He slammed the door open and teetered all around the house but didn’t find anyone, let alone anything that would lead to a clue on where to find his family. Clothes were an array in rooms, picture albums were gone, and no one answered when he called out. His life was in pieces and everything seemed to be shattered. The walkers were half-eaten and rotting pieces of flesh and bones and walking around. His son was missing and his wife was gone. Everything was so fucked up. 

 

In spite of Rick not knowing that the end of the world had come and the dead was up, walking and eating anything in its way, he still went out into the open and sat on the porch just like old times… The summer heat in Georgia beat down on Rick’s body and even though he was wearing his underwear and a robe, all he could think about was the sweat pouring down the nape of his neck. He squinted his eyes as the sun damn near blinded, he caught a glimpse of a man coming down the street. The man was staggering towards Rick. He was wearing all black clothing and not waving back to Rick after a few attempts of Rick waving to him. As he continued to stare, another man shot the man and a branch snapping in the background. He turned his head and within an instant, he had a shovel to his face. 

 

“Daddy, Daddy! I got the sumbitch! I’m gon’ knock him dead!” Duane screamed.

 

“Carl, Carl…” Rick muttered out in pain looking at the young boy that towered over him. 

 

The older man with grayish hair in his beard had come over next to the young boy within an instant while his eyes were closed, “Son, you know they don’t speak… What’s your wound, mister.” And it wasn’t long before Rick’s eyes were closed and was out cold.

 

It had been over a few hours that Rick had slept since getting hit in the face with that shovel. While asleep his bandage had been changed, but as he woke, his hands were tied to the bed as well as his feet. That was his real problem at the moment. He was immobile. 

 

As he blinked his eyes awake, the man sat down next to him and to the other side was the little boy near Carl’s age. 

 

“You’re awake, that’s great. How are you feeling?” 

 

“Sore. Thirsty.” Rick croaked out in pain. 

 

“Well, mister, you weren’t doing too well out there all alone. How long have you been up and out in the streets?” 

 

“Woke up this morning.” Rick answered in pain as he tried moving his limbs around in the tight knots. 

 

Morgan turned around and watched his son carefully and turned his attention back to Rick and took his knife out. “What’s your wound?” 

 

Rick looked puzzled at the question, specifically for the fact that the bandage was dry and changed. “Gunshot.” 

 

“Gunshot? Nothin’ else? No bites, no scratches?” Morgan asked, cocked his head and cleared his throat. 

 

“Bites? Scratches? What the hell are you talking about? What is going on?”

 

“Did anything bite or scratch you?” 

 

“No, just a gunshot…” Rick answered with his face contorted and puzzled. 

 

“We thought it was a bite or a scratch. We had to take precautions. The wound and bandage had been cleaned,” Morgan grabbed at the pocket knife he laid in his lap and brought it to Rick’s face, “Look at it. It’s sharper than it seems so make no mistake that I will not use it on you. So, you come on out when you’re ready.” Morgan than cut the ropes on Rick’s hands and feet. He and Duane were out of them room. 

 

After a few moments, Rick was out of the bed and slowly making his way towards the dimly lit kitchen. He stood in the doorway watching the man and boy enjoy their meal, and within a second brought back to his own memories with Carl. 

 

“You better sit down before you fall down,” Morgan muttered bringing Rick back from his own thoughts.

 

Rick sat down at the table with two and sighed into a yawn. “You keep calling me mister, so I suppose that I’ll tell you my name is Rick… Rick Grimes.”

 

Morgan smirked at Rick as he swallowed the food in his mouth and dished out Rick’s bowl of beans, “Morgan, and this is my boy, Duane. When we found you, you were calling out the name ‘Carl’.” 

 

“Thanks. So, that man that you killed… I saw you. I saw you raise your gun to that man’s head and shoot him. Will you tell me why?” RIck asked as he slowly took a bite. 

 

“It weren’t no man…” Duane muttered out but was instantly cut off by Morgan. 

 

“The hell was that out of your mouth just now?” 

 

“It wasn’t a man,” Duane corrected himself as he looked on at Rick. 

 

“I saw you shoot him in the head,” Rick said again, but more persistent. 

 

“Yes, I shot him. But it wasn’t a person anymore, Rick. Have you seen the walkers? They were once a person but not anymore. A bite, scratch… it’ll kill you,” Morgan explained as he and Rick looked at one another. 

 

“I saw the dead one’s at the hospital loading dock on my way out to head on back to my house.” 

 

“Not the ones that they put down… The ones they didn’t. The walkers. Because, friend, the thing I shot down today was a walker and he would have torn into you like a Thanksgiving Feast. And, with firing that gun today is probably the reason why they’re festering around in the street right now. There’s more out there tonight than normal.” Morgan frowned, then had Duane start cleaning the meal up as best as he could before going to lay down.

 

It wasn’t long before the young boy was sound asleep in Morgan’s arms causing Rick to smile at the many many memories of Carl being in his very own arms and then he blinked at the sound of Morgan’s voice. 

 

“So, is Carl your son?” Morgan asked with a soft face.

 

“He is my son… About Duane’s age there,” Rick answered with a gentle smile.

 

Morgan hummed at the answer with a smile before asking, “He and I had a bet going on about your wound there and how you got it… Bank robbery gone bad?” He joked into a soft chuckle. 

 

Rick laughed, “Deadly as dillinger, Kapow… but in all seriousness, I was a Sheriff’s Deputy.” 

 

“Hmm.” 


“There were more people in the car that my partner and I were chasing. We had the whole department, the next county over’s department and the state department in on this high speed chase. My partner Shane and I were warning them and the more I progressed to the suspects I took my eye off after the first time I got shot in the vest and then I got shot again. But, hell, maybe there was a moment that he let me get shot… I may never know,” Rick muttered in a low growl. 

 

“Why would he let you get shot?” Morgan asked as he covered Duane up a little more. 

 

“A very, very long story.” Rick answered, with a heavy sigh of regret of how his marriage turned out and regret on how things turned out in general. 

 

“It’s up to you if you want to talk about it. I’m certainly not gonna make you,” Morgan muttered as he fixed a pillow behind his back to lay more comfortably.

 

Rick laid down a little more to try to become more relaxed, especially with the wound and the first thing he thought of was his life in high school and his first true love, then Lori. Then Carl and literally almost everything that had happened in his life. “Well, do you want me to start and how much do you want to know?” Rick asked with a sad sigh. He just wanted his son.

 

“I’ll leave that up to you. Whatever you feel is necessary, even if it’s nothing at all. We have all the time in the world now. And, we may have just met but I’m sure that we are somewhat be friends.” Morgan smiled at Rick who returned the smile back. 

 

“I’d say that we are. You took me in when you didn’t have to and I’ll forever be thankful. You saved my life and that’s something I can never repay.”

 

They looked at each other and yawned but Morgan broke that relatively quick. “So?”

 

“Well, I guess I’ll start where my life started to hit the fan… Since I may be dead tomorrow.”

 

“And I’m here to listen,” Morgan reassuringly said. 

 

Rick sat there, picking at his overgrown nail and sighed. Here it goes. He was about to literally tell a stranger his deep dark secrets and what was it going to hurt. He really meant it. He may be dead tomorrow. 

 

“There was someone in my highschool glory days and it wasn’t going to work out or it probably never could have. I then met my wife, well soon to be ex-wife when I was at the academy and fell in love… or so I thought and we had our son, Carl who is nine.” Rick paused to make sure everything that he was spilling out was making sense to his new friend… or acquaintance, but even though his thoughts wandered to Carl, the other part of his thoughts wandered into the most lived days of Rick’s adolescence days.  

 

Morgan looked at Rick who was taking a breath to get his thoughts together and stayed quiet with respect. 

 

“Well, Lori and I had been fighting like cats and dogs. Or we barely talked and it really turned into an awful marriage. I didn’t care about her feelings… I was there but wasn’t there for her, I was there for Carl. After I was shot, got the surgery, and finally woke up, I was given the divorce papers. She finally told me that she and my best friend fell in love and then I don’t remember much after that. I woke up to find the world like this and my son gone.” Rick’s voice lowered to a whisper and closed his eyes, wishing for nothing but Carl to be in his arms one more time.  

 

“Well, how about after we get some shut-eye, we head to your house and we piece everything together?” Morgan offered with another yawn. 

 

Rick smiled and turned the lamps off, “That sounds great. Thank you, Morgan.” And within moments, he was sound asleep. 





_______________





The following morning, Rick, Morgan and Duane went back to Rick’s house and as Rick made a second round through he smiled at Carl’s bed and toys. This once used to be his home. Morgan and Duane were sitting in the kitchen when Rick eventually returned. 

 

“They’re alive.” Rick muttered as he leaned against the wall. 

“How do you know?” Morgan asked.

 

“Clothes are all gone. They packed light but they packed enough for a trip.” Rick smiled.

 

“Rick, I hate to even mention this, but you do realize that anyone could have broken in and stolen some clothes, right?”

 

“Yeah, and some random thief broke in and stole all the picture albums too, right?” Rick said back with a sigh. 

 

“Photo-albums… my wife… Here I was grabbing survival gear and she’s grabbing photo-albums.” Morgan grunted in frustration. 

 

“There in Atlanta, I bet… They’ve got that disease place,” Duane muttered from the corner of the room. 

 

“Right, they got that Center For Disease Control. They were putting out radio broadcasts about a safe place to stay. But the broadcasts have come to a stop.” 

 

“Well, that sounds like a plan then.” Rick smiled as he grabbed the keys to the cruiser and they drove separately to the King County Sheriff’s Department. 

 

As they made their way inside, the smell of the donuts from being stale along with the coffee that’d be gone bad had taken over the entire lobby. 

 

Not being able to take the smell anymore, Rick immediately began to make his way to the locker room where the showers were located. He knew it would be a long shot but he turned the hot water on and within moments a big smile came across his face. 

 

“We haven’t had hot water in ages,” Morgan laughed. 

 

“The department has its own propane system. I’m surprised it’s still on considering how long the world has been like this.” Rick smiled.

 

After they showered and dressed, they all went back to where the armory was at. Rick packed his bag with the weapons that he wanted to take with him, as Morgan packed his bag with the weapons and ammo. He promised Duane that he’d teach him to shoot and declining Rick’s invitation to come with him to Atlanta. And it didn’t take long before Rick was on his way out of King County and on his merry way to look for his boy and wife. Ex-Wife. 

 

Running out of gas in the cruiser lead Rick to desperately try to find the gas at the farm house he’d driven past. When he got to the porch, he hollered out but got nothing back. He walked around the outside looking into the windows and gagged at the sight of the couple whose heads were blown off. 

 

Rick made his way back to the front. He thought his prayers were answered with the truck sitting in the drive-way but of course to no avail, the truck didn’t work because he didn’t have the keys. 

 

On the other side of the property, Rick looked right at the horse and he knew that this was going to be  his transportation into the city. little did he know that shit would be hitting the fan. 

 

If he knew that the moment he and that horse arrive in the city that they’d be bait, he probably would have worked just a little harder at getting the gas for the cruiser or the keys to the truck. But then that would have been too easy for him. So, the big ole’ city of Atlanta, Georgia is where he was… on the back of the timid horse that put his ass on the ground. His bag of guns, ammo and the radio to keep in touch with Morgan was gone… and had found himself held up in the tank. 

 

Everything was surely looking up for him, huh.

Chapter Text

Rick groaned in disgruntlement as his heart was almost beating out of his chest. This was it, this was the way he was going out. He wasn’t only annoyed but very pissed at the current situation that he had gotten himself into. If he remembered anything from the many conversations with Morgan was to not get himself pinned in a small area and to always watch his ass… and here he was in this damn shitty situation. He also knew from his life before at the academy that you never run and get yourself locked in but it’s like he forgot everything that he ever learned. He’d been told that you Fight, Flight or Freeze and that freezing would most definitely be the worst decision in any situation in life. Running may have been safer but to run and get locked or cornered was not the best of decisions either, which is what landed him where he was. 

 

He was locked in the tank with a walker, not enough ammo to deal with the very busy streets of Atlanta, but even if he did there were way too many of them. As all the thoughts came rushing through his head about the past ,he didn’t even realize that the walker had come back to life, or rather had woken up hungry and attempting to attack him. Within a split second Rick had the dead soldier’s gun and shot into the rotten head. The piercing ring like a dog whistle rang through the small tank and his head throbbed in excruciating pain where he almost wanted to cry. He pushed his way through the tank to the top to get the painful sound out of his head, and nothing ever seems to work out for him no matter what he does. The walkers smelled him within an instant and forced him back down in the tank. 

 

He sat there with no hope of getting out of the damn tank until talking on the radio caught his attention, “Hey, you alive in there?” And as soon as he stood up his head met the metal pole. He grunted in pain but that didn’t stop him from reaching the radio.

 

“Hello, Hello?” Rick pleaded, hoping that the voice would come through again. 

 

“There you are. You had me wondering.”

 

“Where are you? Outside? Can you see me right now?” Rick spoke with heavy breathing and sighed that hoping this was his way out of the very hot tank without any air circulation. 

 

“Yeah, I can see you. You’re surrounded by walkers, that’s the bad news.” 

 

“There’s good news?” Rick sarcastically countered feeling like he was dying. 

 

“No.”

 

“Listen, whoever you are, I don’t mind tellin’ you that I’m a little concerned in here,” Rick sighed, sweat dripping off his nose. 

 

“Oh, man. You should see it from over here. You’d be having a major freak out.” 

 

“Got any advice for me?” Rick asked, rolling his eyes. Just his fucking luck. Atlanta, Georgia surrounded by the dead who do nothing but try to eat anything and everything they can. Yep, just his damn luck. 

 

“Yeah, I’d say make a run for it.”

 

Rick cocked his head and looked at the radio and scoffed, “That’s it? ‘Make a run for it?’

 

“My way’s not as dumb as it sounds. You’ve got eyes on the outside here. There’s one geek still up on the tank but the others have climbed down and joined the feeding frenzy where the horse went down. You with me so far?”

 

Rick began looking around the tank, “So far.” 

 

“Okay, the street on the other side of the tank is less crowded. If you move now while they’re distracted, you stand a chance. Do you got ammo?”

 

“In that duffel bag that I dropped out there, and guns. Can I get to it?” Rick asked as he was running every single scenario through his thick head. 

 

“Forget the bag, okay? It’s not an option. What do you have on you?” 

 

“Hang on,” Rick said, dropped the radio and grabbed the closest gun. He took the clip out, counted and scooted as fast as he could to the dead soldier. He looked up and saw the Beretta then made his way to the radio. “I’ve got a Beretta with one clip, 15 rounds.”

 

“Make ‘em count. Jump off the right side of the tank, keep going in that direction. There’s an alley up the street, maybe 50 yards. Be there.” 

 

“Hey, what’s your name?” Rick asked. He was always the one who wanted to know everyone’s names.

 

“Have you been listening? You’re running out of time.” 

 

Rick shook his head. Of course. He had to ask the stupid question. It was only a matter of time before they were done feeding off that poor horse and he definitely didn’t want to be next or go out that way. He grabbed the gun from the soldier, his and the shovel and took a very deep breath. This was it. This was the test of his abilities in this new world. He opened the top of the tank and a walker was right in front of him and without even hesitating, Rick swung the shovel to the walker’s face. One down, a million others to go. 

 

Rick jumped off the right side of the tank as instructed, falling on his wound. Instant pain shot through his body. He didn’t have time to think about that though. He got himself up and limped his way as fast as he could down the street, shooting the closest ones as he could. He had only 15 rounds. He turned down to where the alley was supposed to be and a young Korean kid stood at the end of the barrell, scared for his life. 

 

“Whoa! Not dead! Come on! Come on!” He yelled as Rick closed the gate and they both ran to the ladder on the side of the building. Rick could have sworn he was about to have a heart attack as they reached the first platform. “Nice moves there, Clint Eastwood. You the new Sheriff come riding in to clean up the town?”

 

“It wasn’t my intention,” Rick muttered out, still catching his breath.

 

“Yeah, whatever. Yee-haw. You’re still a dumbass.”

 

“Rick, thanks.” Rick had said with his hand out to shake the young kid’s. Even thanking him in his mind for continuing to call him a dumbass, because apparently, he really was. 

 

“Glenn, you’re welcome,” He countered, and allowed Rick to put the gun in his backpack. “Oh no.” He added, as he looked down watching the walkers try to climb the ladder and made his way to another ladder that continued to the top of the building before turning around to Rick, “On the bright side? It’ll be the fall that kills us. I’m a glass-half-full kinda guy.” And they both got up to the top of the building. 

 

“Back at the tank, why’d you stick your neck out for me?” Rick asked with a jolt of energy to follow Glenn wherever the hell he was going.

 

“Call it foolish, naive hope. That if I’m ever that far up shit creek, that somebody might do the same for me. Guess I’m an even bigger dumbass than you,” Glenn answered, looking up at Rick with a hint of a smirk on his face.

 

Rick looked at Glenn and sighed lightly. Of course, make that almost number five of being called a dumbass. He’ll never live it down. He knew he was a dumbass but at the same time he never thought that Atlanta was going to be in ruins when he arrived. He was told that it was going to have people and it was safe, but it sure as fuck wasn’t safe and there were people… Dead people, but people. 




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It wasn’t Rick’s best moment in his lifetime as he and Glenn got inside the department store. It definitely wasn’t the most assuring moment when he was looking at the end of the gun that was being shoved into his angelic face. He had absolutely no idea what the problem was or why everyone seemed to be so pissed. Glenn saved his life and that was enough for him to be okay with what was going to unravel but having a gun in his face was something that was not going to be okay with him. It didn’t take the group long for them to explain what the issue was and why they were freaking out. And within an instant, the sound of gunshots were raining down around them and they ran to the roof. 

 

“Dixon! Are you crazy?” Morales yelled out before the rest of the group got around in a circle staring at the crazy, rough man on the edge of the building. 

 

“Hey! Y’all better be more polite to a man with a gun! It’s only common sense!” Merle hollered out in his raucous, throaty voice.

 

Rick bit his lip, closed his eyes and sighed. He knew the man, from before. From before leaving King County and getting married. He had very limited conversations with him and he was fine with that, but never in a million years did he ever think that he’d ever, ever see the crazy coon again… especially like this. 

 

“Man, you’s wasting bullets that we ain’t even got! And you’re bringing more of them down on our ass! Man, just chill!” T-Dog yelled as he jumped down in front of Merle.

 

“Hey!, bad enough that I’ve got this taco-bender on my ass all day… Now, I’m gonna take orders from you? I don’t think so bro. That’ll be the day,” Merle yelled out in anger as he stalked towards T-Dog. 

 

‘That’ll be the day’ ? Man, you got something you want to tell me?” T-Dog added in to the hillbilly’s racial argument. 

 

“You want t’ know the day?” Merle asked with a sly smile.

 

“Yeah.” 

 

“I’ll tell you the day, Mr. Yo, It’s the day that I take orders from a n-.” Merle smirked with the fact of knowing that it was going to piss T-Dog off. 

 

In that moment, T-Dog was pissed as suspected and retaliated against the other man. He knocked him in the head with the end of the shotgun. Rick leaped over to try to restrain Merle and got punched in the face. That sucked. While the rest of the group was attempting to stop Merle’s attack and getting the shit kicked out of all of them, because who really had the strength to stop a mad mans’ anger. He took the time to make everyone vote to have him in charge, Rick snuck up from behind him and hit him in the fact with the shotgun. 

 

Rick’s knee was on Merle’s face, handcuffs went onto one of his hands and hooked up to a metal rod. He pulled Merle up to a sitting position and grunted out in pain from his wound. Another showdown with Merle. This was exactly what he wanted, not. Plus, he had no idea if Merle even remembered him from all those years ago. The man was always drugged out of his mind. How he survived? Rick had no idea. 

 

“Who the hell are you, man?!” Merle growled out roughly. 

 

“Officer Friendly.” Rick answered. Yeah, that answered his question. No doubt that Merle didn’t recognize him from Adam . “Look here, Merle. Things are different now. We don’t call people that anymore. There are no dumb-as-shit, inbredwhite-trash fools either. Only dark meat and white meat. There’s us and there’s the dead. We survive this by pulling together, not apart.” All while talking to Merle, Rick was unloading the gun and reloading it and watching Merle intently. 

 

“Screw you, man.” 

 

“I can see you make a habit of missing the point,” Rick scoffed in annoyance and rolled his eyes.. Yep, the man had not changed an ounce since his last interaction with him. This ought to be fun. 

 

“Yeah? Well, screw you twice,” Merle countered without a care in the world of talking to the police in the matter that he always did. 

 

“Ought to be polite to a man with a gun,” Rick muttered out, now pissed, as he put the gun to Merle’s head, “Only common sense.” 

 

“You wouldn’t! You’re a cop,” Merle scathed, avoiding Rick’s eyes at all cost.

 

Rick leaned down once more, forcing Merle to look at him, “All I am anymore is a man looking for his wife and son. Anybody that gets in the way of that is gonna lose. I’ll give you a moment to think about that.” Rick searched Merle all over from his jacket pockets to his jeans and shook his head as he pulled a blunt out, and flicked his nose. “Ya got some on your nose there.” Absolutely NOTHING changed with him. 

 

“What’re ya gonna do? Arrest me?” Merle laughed, “Hey! What’re you doin’! That’s my stuff! If I get loose you’d better pray! You hear me you pig!?” 

 

Rick walked away to the other end of the roof, “Yeah. Your voice carries.” 

 

“Do you hear me, you filthy pig!?” Merle screamed louder. 

 

Rick looked out over Atlanta, his hand shaking and breathed deeply when a voice caught him off guard. 

 

“You’re not Atlanta, P.D. Where are you from?” Morales asked, watching Rick intently without moving his eyes. 

 

“From up the road a ways,” Rick answered, just wanting to get out of the walker infested city and on his way to finding Lori and Carl. 

 

“Well, Officer Friendly from up the road a ways, welcome to the big city.” Morales smiled with a hit of sarcasm, thunder rumbling over them. 




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They group stood in the department store awaiting Glenn and Morales’ return. hey all groaned at the revelation that there wasn’t a way out regarding the sewer lines. Deciding to head back to the roof with T-Dog and Merle, Rick smiled gently at the construction site he saw. 

 

“That construction site, those trucks- they always keep keys on hand,”  Rick stated and the smile erased from his face.

 

“You’ll never make it past the walkers.” Morales stated the obvious and they moved closer to T-Dog to include him in the conversation, ignoring Merle. 

 

“You got me out of that tank,” Rick sighed, looking at Glenn. 

 

“Yeah, but they were feeding. They were distracted,” Glenn answered as he paced around. 

 

“Can we distract them again?” Rick asked, watching Glenn, obvious that the young man was thinking of something. 

 

“Right, listen to him. He’s onto something. A diversion, like on Hogan’s Heroes” Merle added to the conversation. Just like a child butting in without a hint of being asked for said opinion. 

 

“Oh, God! Give it a rest!” Jaqui cried out in aggravation and rolled her eyes. 

 

“They’re drawn by sound, right?” Rick asked, probably a stupid question but he himself was still learning about the dead every day. 

 

“Right, like dogs. They hear a sound, they come,” Glenn added as the group looked at one another.

 

“What else?” Rick asked genuinely. 

 

“Aside from them hearing you? They see you, smell you, and if they catch you, they eat you,” Morales joined in and Rick immediately put that into his mental folder he kept on the walkers. 

 

“They can tell us by smell?” Rick asked looking at the group. How long have them been doing this, he thought. 

 

“Can’t you?” Glenn countered sarcastically. 

 

“They smell dead, we don’t. It’s pretty distinct.” Andrea had said looking at Rick who definitely was overwhelmed. Take a few steps forward, get pushed back a hundred. 

 

It didn’t take Rick very long for him to come with some sort of plan. The walkers smell dead, they don’t. So the only option he could come up with was to make the group smell just like the dead. The group went down to the store, grabbed what they need: coats, gloves, masks. They only thing they were missing was a walker. 

 

The rest of the group was definitely not okay with the plan, but they had no other option. They bitched and complained about hacking into the walker. A few of them threw up. This was yet another moment in Rick’s life that he did not want to relive. They were all nauseous at the smell of the dead walker and the metallic taste in their mouths only grew when the guts were spraying out all over the floor and they were all hesitant to even breathe. Their hands were deep into its guts and wiping it over Rick and Glenn. Yes, this was not going to make Rick’s greatest life event’s list. 

 

After realizing that wearing the walkers guts and now having to walk down the street with easily over a hundred walkers was yet another thing that wasn’t going to make his list, dangerous and stupid as it was, it was defintely the only option that they had. This was it. This was yet another possible way of him dying and still not finding his wife, correction, ex-wife and son. This was how it was going to go down and how he was going out and yet he volunteered. The thunder began rumbling on top of them as it did earlier in the day, dark clouds were rolling in and he and Glenn both knew the rain was going to hit them hard. 

 

Glenn looked around at the huge group of walkers surrounding them, slightly freaking out as even though they walked by they were growling more and more attention was being brought to them and he definitely was not happy. “The smell is washing off, isn’t it? Is it washing off!?” He asked, anxiety getting the best of him. 

 

“No, it’s not. Well, maybe,” Rick answered and within a split second they began attacking, causing them to have to fight through. Well, fuck. 

 

They ran as hard and fast as they could to get over the fence. Rick made Glenn go and find the keys while Rick shot the ones who climbed over the fence until Glenn hollered for him and tossed the keys to Rick. They started the van and drove off, to circle around and find a vehicle for Glenn to drive to draw them away with the loud alarm. 

 

“Those roll up doors at the front of the store, facing the street. Meet us there and be ready,” Glenn radioed to the group as he drove in front of Rick. 

 

Rick pulled up to the roll up doors and knocked on it as he waited for the group. He ran to the front as they all finished loading into the boxed van and he drove off and it wasn’t until Morales came and joined him in the passenger seat that he noticed. 

 

“I dropped the damn key.” T-Dog sighed catching his breath from almost getting eaten alive.

 

Everyone looked at one another, including Rick looking right at Morales until Andrea’s voice came out, “Where’s Glenn?” 

 

Chapter Text

The sun had barely risen and the Georgia heat was already unbearable. Rick could smell himself and it was definitely not the greatest smell in the world, but it was the end of the world, so who cared? Lori, that’s who would care. But then they were getting divorced, so really did she get a right to care? Not like he had anyone else to impress. Carl loved him in every way possible. That was his boy and he was his father, nothing and no one would ever change that. Rick continued to drive as the sun beat through the window right in his face.

 

“Best not dwell on it. Merle got left behind-,” Morales paused at the look that Rick had given him, “Nobody’s gonna be sad he didn’t come back, except maybe Daryl.” 

 

Rick immediately turned his head at hearing the name, “Daryl,” He muttered, repeating Morales.  


“His brother,” Morales answered, eyeing Rick the kind of way that there was more there than it was being let on. 

 

Rick sighed as quietly as he could and looked in the side view mirror at the car that Glenn was driving alarm blaring. That yes, would most definitely got the walkers away from them, or brought them to them? Daryl. Daryl Dixon. Well, was that so surprising that Daryl would be alive? He and Merle were both survivors and came from the same awful childhood. Was it really that surprising?

 

They pulled into the quarry following Glenn. “Come meet everybody.” Morales smiled and exited the cube van. Rick pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. The whole damn thing was very frustrating. 

 

Andrea was the next one out and ran into her little sisters arms, exchanging their names and crying. Jaqui followed with T-Dog, and Morales’ family ran into his arms. Lori and Carl walked away so she could console her little boy. 

 

“How’d y’all get out of there anyway?” Shane asked as he watched the woman he loved talking to Carl as he cried. 

 

“New guy, he got us out,” Glenn answered with a big smile. 

 

“New guy?” Shane asked looking at the group. 

 

“Yeah, crazy vato just got into town,” Morales added more to what Glenn was saying. “Hey, Officer Friendly! Come say hello!” He yelled towards the cube van, family still holding on tightly.

 

Rick got out, against all odds. His hands on his hips sighing deeply at another moment of being the new guy. Cause this wasn’t awkward at all. Just some random guy being stared at by some random group. But within an instant, Shane looked towards the van and his eyes grew wide. He and Rick locked eyes and then Carl looked over. 

 

“Oh my god,” Rick quietly cried as his eyes were set right on his son and ran towards him. 

 

“Dad! Dad!” Carl cried, smiling and ran right into Ricks arms. 

 

This was everything that he’d always wanted since he woke up in that hospital room. His kid was finally safe in his arms. It wasn’t long before Rick stood with Carl in his arms sighed as he made eye contact with Lori and Shane. The sight of them both made his stomach turn and if there was anything that he was or would ever be grateful for… it was the fact that Shane saved Carl, even though he wasn’t his responsibility. Some fucking friend. How could he be mad at him at this moment when he did indeed save his kid? 





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Later that night, the full moon was out and the cicadas were chirping together with the crickets. The fire was crackling in the middle of the entire group and everyone was numb from everything that had happened. Carl laid in-between Rick’s long legs as he and Shane eyed one another. Another fucking awkward moment. 

 

“Disorientated. I guess that comes closest. Disorientated. Fear, confusion… All of those things, but disorientated comes closest.” Rick sighed and kissed Carl’s forehead. 

 

Everyone was quiet and listening until Dale broke the silence. “Words can be meager things. Sometimes, they fall short.”

 

“I felt like I'd been ripped out of my life and put somewhere else. For a while, I thought I was trapped in some coma dream, something I might not wake up from… ever,” Rick muttered out as he stared out into the darkness as the thunder rumbled around them and Carl looked up at him. 

 

“Mom said you died.” Carl sighed pulling Rick’s arms tighter around him. Of course she’d say that. Why wouldn’t she. 

 

“She had every reason to believe that. Don’t you ever doubt it.” Rick smiled as he took his fingers through his son’s hair. What the hell was happening to him? It was like he was still playing pretend.

 

Across from the fire, next to Shane, Lori looked over at Rick and frowned. “When things started to get really bad, they told me at the hospital that they were going to medivac you and the other patients to Atlanta and it never happened.”

 

Rick looked at his ex wife, still runninghis fingers through Carl’s hair and sighed. “Well, I’m not surprised after Atlanta fell. And from the look of that hospital, it got overrun.”

 

“Yeah, well, looks don’t deceive. I barely got them out, you know?” Shane added looking over at Rick. 

 

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you got them out. I can’t begin to express it,” Rick replied, as he locked eyes again with Shane. Grateful for getting Carl out and safe… He was torn. He said, ‘them’. Why did he include her when she was the one that left him alone fighting for his life? Sometimes, he questioned his decisions… Not to mention the fact that Daryl was coming back from his hunt and was so going to be pissed about Merle being handcuffed on the rooftop. 

 

“There go those words falling short again. Paltry things.” Dale softly chuckled looking around at the group. “Have you given any thought to Daryl Dixon? He won’t be happy to hear his brother was left behind.” 

 

“I’ll tell him. I dropped the key, it’s on me.” T-Dog answered, bluntly.

 

“I cuffed him. That makes it mine,” Rick countered, willing to take responsibility, even if it meant taking the harshness of Daryl’s reactions. 

 

“Guys, it’s not a competition. I don’t meant to bring race into this, but it might sound better coming from a white guy,” Glenn spoke up with some sort of truth as he looked at both Rick and T-Dog. 

 

“I did what I did. Hell if I’m gonna hide from him.”

 

“We could lie,” Amy sighed as she was curled up next to Andrea. 

 

“Or tell the truth. Merle was out of control. Something had to be done or he’d have gotten us killed. And if Merle got left behind, it’s nobody’s fault but Merle’s,” Andrea added. 

 

“And that’s what we tell Daryl? I don’t see a rational discussion to be had from that, do you?” Dale asked the group and looked at Andrea who put her head in her arms, “Word to the wise, we’re gonna have our hands full when he gets back from his hunt.”

 

“I was scared and I ran. I’m not ashamed of it,” T-Dog muttered as he looked at Dale and then Rick. 

 

“We were all scared, we all ran. What’s your point?” she asked, holding onto Amy. 

 

“I stopped long enough to chain that door. Staircase is narrow, maybe half a dozen geeks can squeeze against it at any one time. It’s not enough to break through that chain… not that padlock. My point is, is that Dixon’s alive. And, he’s still up there handcuffed on that roof. That’s on us,” T-Dog explained and sighed with grief as he then removed himself from the conversation.





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After telling Carl goodnight, Rick took watch over the camp on top of the RV. Thunder roared less than a few miles away as he sat in the chair. He muttered to himself about how fucked up everything was. He stared at the tent where his son was and all he could do was frown. Not because of Lori… Well, she did play a part in it. Running off with Shane, Carl thinking he was really dead… And the fact that Shane is in the tent with Carl. He began to seethe at the thought of Carl calling Shane ‘daddy’. 

 

The next morning, Rick woke up in the R.V after Dale had relieved him from his watch so he could sleep. He groaned out in pain that radiated through his whole body. Morales had taken over watch to allow Rick to get some sort of rest down in a small tent that he had sat up for him earlier in the evening. He rolled his eyes at the fact that it wasn’t only the would or sleeping wrong, it was mostly the fact that he was getting old. The cracking and popping of his joints. He had assumed that the reason Lori left him was for the age but he and Shane were the same damn age… So that was out. Fuck them both. He growled, but immediately silenced the lion within.

 

He sighed heavily, let out a loud yawn before he swung his legs around the very small pull out bed. It took him awhile to get moving in the mornings and that was when he realized that everyone in America took advantage of hot or cold showers, washing and drying clothes, beds, warm homes. Food. God, how he truly missed the burgers and fries. Coffee. Now, he was just torturing himself. His mouth was watering like a waterfall. 

 

It took him only a little bit to refocus on the reality of the present that he lived in now. This was it, the end of the world with ex-bitchy wife and the worst asshole friend ever, that saved his child. There wasn’t anything from before. Sure, coffee could be made if you knew the best way to get water for one, purify it to be able to drink… and then finding the coffee itself and straining it. He already knew after two days that finding edible food and good quality shelter was going to be their first priority. So much to do and then having to converse with Shane who was kind of their leader. Great. Yup. It’ll be one hell of a moment. 

 

He raised his eyebrows at the blue jeans, white t-shirt and smiled. He grabbed at them and started to get dressed. Somewhat clean clothes were a hell of a lot better than the sweaty-soaked uniform he’d probably end up having to wear. After a few moments of getting dressed, he made his way out of the RV and was immediately looking for Carl. But he ended up running into Carol whom he’d met the night prior. He frowned at the clues that she was in an abusive relationship. The signs were easy for him to determine it, especially with Ed and the whole debacle with adding the extra piece of wood. If there was another thing that he and Shane could agree about, it was about making Ed remove the extra log. How stupid and selfish could he be when he put his family, himself and the group in danger. 

 

“Good morning.” Carol uttered out as Rick was walking past.

 

“Morning.” He gently smiled as his bright blue eyes felt the pain radiating off of her. Stupid piece of shit. He had responded to so many domestic calls resulting in awful violence that it made his skin crawl. Men thinking that they were more manly by putting their hands on women and children. He swallowed hard to refrain his urge to protect her when she wasn’t asking for it. 

 

“They’re still a little damp. The sun will have ‘em dry in no time,” Carol explained as she eyed his new ‘get up’ that she laid out in the RV for him. 

 

“You washed my clothes?” Rick asked as he watched her continuing to iron with the metal iron.

 

“Well, best we could. Scrubbing on a washboard ain’t as half as good as my old Maytag back home.” Carol frowned as this was normally the part that Ed’s fists were in her face.

 

“That’s very kind, thank you.” Rick smiled at the broken woman before him who forced a smile every damn day. 

 

He made his way around the small camp looking for Carl and ran right into Lori. Well, he did know that it was not going to be avoided for forever. He knew that he’d have to actually talk to her at some point. 

 

“How’d you know?” Lori asked, stopping him from trying to walk the other direction.

 

“I was a cop, Lori. I was very good at my job… May not have been home as you’d have wanted but… nevermind.” Rick grunted, clenching his mouth together. Still ridiculous that he was explaining himself to her. 

 

“I never said you weren’t a good cop, Rick-,” She muttered as low as she could looking right into his eyes… She knew that something was on his mind. “God, what? I know that look. Just say what you need to say.”

 

“I’ve been thinking about that man that we left behind.” Just the highschool sweetheart’s crazy ass brother. Rick sighed as he watched Lori continue to hang the clothes up. It really wasn’t any of her business but sharing Carl with her and knowing he’d be leaving wasn’t fair for Carl but he knew that she needed to know for his sake. 

 

“You’re not serious,” She grunted, occupying herself as much as she could with the clothes.

 

Rick rolled his eyes as her voice reminded him of nails on a chalkboard. But thankfully his thoughts of Lori vanished by the whine of Glenn and the car. Only to be more annoyed with Shane hauling ass into their very small camp.

 

“Water’s here y’all! Remember to boil before use!” Shane hollered, nodding to Rick causing Rick to roll his eyes and turn away. This was going to be harder than ever to coincide with Lori and Shane. But it was for Carl’s sake… and that he just had to keep reminding himself of. 

 

“I’m gonna assume that you’re telling and not asking,” Lori added as she eyed Shane who bit his bottom lip in frustration. 

 

“Not that I really have to ask for permission but if it makes it any less of a hassle, then I’ll go with the fact you want me to ask you, Lori,” Rick spat out and closed his eyes. Well, that was very stupid… but maybe they could all be on the same page… ha, nah. 

 

“Well, I think it’s crazy. I think it’s just the stupidest way to break your son-”

 

The serious conversation between him and Lori had come to a halt at the blood curdling scream that Carl had let out, “Mommy!”

 

“Carl!” Lori screamed as she immediately starting to run.

 

“Dad!” Carl screamed out causing everyone else to stop what they were doing. 

 

“Baby!” Lori cried out as the men were throwing what weapons they could to each other.

 

Within seconds, the men were right were Carl was screaming from as Lori had already gotten on her knees. “You’re okay. Go, Rick! I’ve got him.” She pulled Carl into her arms who immediately began to cry. “Nothing bit you? Nothing scratched you?”

 

“No, I’m okay,” Carl cried.

 

Rick, Glenn, Dale, Shane, Jim and Morales all ran to the opening behind where Lori and Carl were. They came to a stop as Shane was scanning the edges of the trees for more walkers. The group circled in on the walker who was feeding on the deer, causing Rick and Shane to eye each other. 

 

Rick took the first swing, knocking the walker back as the rest of them added in on it. They all beat it as it was on the ground. It was like a gang hit or mosh pit at a concert that had gotten way out of control until Dale finally took the axe to chop it’s head off. 

 

“That’s the first one we’ve had up here,” Dale mentioned, out of breath, “They never come this far up the mountain.”

 

“Well, they’re running out of food in the city, that’s what,” Jim brought up as they all tried to catch their breath. 

 

A sudden rustling noise from beyond the rock and trees got them all back on guard. They raised their weapons at the general direction. Rick was internally freaking out, he was not ready for a repeat of what happened in the city. He couldn’t afford another dumbass attack. After waiting for those very long seconds, all of them let out a sigh of relief except Rick. He could have sworn that his heart beat was faster and harder. 





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Daryl walked around the big rock looking at the deer. Short hair, green eyes, tan colored tank top and a slog of squirrels on a rope, hanging over his shoulder. “Son of a bitch! That’s my deer! Look at it, all gnawed on by this filthy-disease bearing, motherless poxy bastard!” He growled out in anger as he kicked the walker’s body.

 

“Calm down, son. That’s not helping,” Dale grunted as he watched Daryl’s anger flow through him in ways that it shouldn’t. 

 

“What do you know about it, old man?” Daryl asked, stalking towards Dale until Shane put his shotgun in between them. “Why don’t you take that stupid hat and go back to ‘On Golden Pond’ ? I’ve been tracking this deer for miles-” He muttered as he turned back toward the deer, pulling his arrows out. “Gonna drag it back to camp, cook us up some venison. What do you think? You think we can cut around this chewed up part right here?” Daryl asked, very serious as he looked at the group. 

 

“I would not risk that,” Shane answered as he watched Daryl overreact which wasn’t new from the last few weeks of living together since the turn. 

 

“That’s a damn shame. I got some squirrel, about a dozen or so. That’ll have to do,” Daryl saidas he shot the walker’s chopped off head. 

 

Rick watched Daryl. He not only didn’t trust him after all those years, but because he had to tell him about Merle… And not to mention he knew how bad Daryl’s temper used to be and he could only imagine how much it had amplified. But all he could do was smile behind his very concerned look. This was his Daryl. Spit-fire. Rough edged. Still had the little punk inside him. This, after all the years, Daryl Dixon not only made his heart skip a beat but made his heart beat slow down with one look from him. 

Chapter Text

They all followed Daryl back to camp and Rick dreaded this moment. He hated this. Daryl hadn’t looked at Rick and he wasn’t even sure if Daryl remembered him. It’d been almost twenty some years. Lori and Shane, especially Shane, hadn’t even made any real advances on letting Rick know that he remembered the names of either Daryl or Merle. But then again, Rick and Daryl were pretty secret back then because a Dixon being caught up with a goody two shoes like a Grimes meant more problems for Daryl at home. 

 

“Merle, get your ugly ass out here! Got some squirrel! Let’s stew ‘em up!” Daryl hollered out as he and the rest of the group entered the camp. 

 

“Daryl, just slow up a bit. I need to talk to you,” Shane called out as he put the gun in the jeep and walked towards Daryl with Rick in tow. 

 

“About what?” Daryl asked as he watched Shane closely.

 

“About Merle. There was a… There was a problem in Atlanta,” Shane started as he stood in front of the redneck. 

 

“He dead?” Daryl asked, looking at both Rick and Shane. 

 

“We’re not sure,” Shane simply answered. 

 

“He either is or he ain’t!” Daryl raised his voice as he and Shane circled around staring at one another.

 

Rick walked closer, not sure on what would happen and sighed looking at the both of them. Shane was never the best at confrontations. He was a hot head, through and through. “No easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it.” He knew. Daryl knew it was him. He’d seen that look in the Archer’s eyes so, so many times. That made Rick just a little more hopeful. Daryl didn’t have amnesia, Rick knew this was one of Daryl’s games and temper tantrums. That he could certainly handle.

 

“Who are you?” Daryl spat, watching Rick intently. 

 

“Rick Grimes,” Rick answered, trying his best not to smile because this was the beginning of the game. This was going to be fun. Daryl wanted a game to play, he’d give him the game… that’s for sure. 

 

“Rick Grimes, you got somethin’ you want to tell me?” Daryl growled low in his chest. 

 

“Your brother was a danger to us all, so I handcuffed him to a roof, hooked him up to a piece of metal. He’s still there,” Rick answered, actually upset about it. 

 

“Hold on, let me process this. You’re saying you handcuffed my brother to a roof and you left him there!?” Daryl screamed as he and Rick looked at one another. 

 

“Yeah.” 

 

Within a moment, Daryl was grunting, throwing the rope filled of squirrels at Rick causing him to duck out of the way. Shane immediately ran and knocked Daryl to the ground with his shoulder, pissing him off even more as Daryl pulled his knife out. 

 

“Hey! Watch the knife!” T-Dog hollered as he dropped the logs he was carrying. 

 

Daryl swung the knife at Rick and thankfully, Rick grabbed Daryl’s arm and twisted it behind the Archer’s back, both grunting in frustration. One hell of a game they were going to be playing. Shane came up and grabbed the other arm to allow Rick to get the knife out of his hand and put Daryl into a chokehold.

 

“You best let me go!” Daryl roared out in nothing but rage.

 

“Nah, I think it’s best if I don’t,” Shane grunted as he tightened his grip, causing Daryl to fall to his knees.

 

“Choke hold is illegal,” Daryl muttered as he strained to fight against Shane’s strength. 

 

“You can file a complaint. Come on, man. We’ll keep this up all day.” Shane still grunted as he kept his hold around the redneck and looked at Rick.

 

Rick knelt on the ground and got into Daryl’s face. “I’d like to have a calm discussion on this topic. Do you think we can manage that? Do you think we can manage that?” he asked yet again with more emphasis. 

 

Rick and Daryl eyed one another again and nodded. He was eventually let out of the hold and panted for his breath like a dog who’d run like a banshee indian. 

 

“What I did was not on a whim, Daryl. Your brother does not work and play well with others,” Rick said as he watched the Archer stare holes into him.

 

“It’s not Rick’s fault. I had the key and I dropped it,” T-Dog mentioned as he moved a little closer.

 

“You couldn’t pick it up?” Daryl asked in disbelief. 

 

“Well, I dropped it in a drain,” T-Dog answered. 

 

Daryl huffed out, pissed again as he grunted and got up, “If it’s supposed to make me feel better, it don’t,” and then walked away, throwing a rock at the ground eyeing T-Dog. 

 

“Well, maybe this will. Look, I chained the door to the roof so the geeks couldn’t get at him with a padlock,” T-Dog spoke up holding Daryl’s eyes.

 

“It’s gotta count for something,” Rick added as he Daryl made eye contact again. Not really the best way that any of them could have handled the conversation. 

 

“Hell with all y’all! Just tell me where he is, so’s I can go get him.” Daryl snorted, choking back his tears. 

 

“He’ll show you, ain’t that right,” Lori muttered, looking at Rick hating him just a little bit more.

 

Rick eyed Lori right back. Stupid bitch. One minute she’s pleading for him to stay and then saying it was okay. What the actual fuck. Yet he had to get himself off of it. She and her crazy ass was all Shane’s responsibility now. “I’m going back.” He then looked at Daryl who stalked away. 





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Rick stepped out of the RV buttoning his uniform shirt up and sighed as Shane waited for him. “So that’s it, huh? You’re just gonna walk off? Just the hell with everyone else?”

 

Rick sighed again as he continued to button his shirt and looked at Shane. Rick was definitely surprised at Shane’s courage to act like he was upset with him leaving, but then again he probably was. He couldn’t tell anymore between the two of them on what was true and what wasn’t. “I’m not saying to hell with anybody, least of all Carl.” 

 

“Tell him that. Tell Lori that,” Shane muttered out as Rick walked away.

 

“They know.” Rick smirked, looking over his shoulder at Shane and then walked back up the hill. 

 

“Well, look, okay. I don’t, Rick, so could you just… Could you throw me a bone here, man? Could you just tell me why? Why would you risk your life for a douchebag like Merle Dixon?” Shane asked as he followed Rick who turned around and faced his former partner in disbelief. Again, the doubt from someone who had the audacity to try that on him? And to try to bait him in front of the entire group, yeah. He was in disbelief at the childish behavior he seemed to be surrounded by. 

 

“Hey! Choose your words more carefully,” Daryl growled out as he walked a little closer to the duo.

 

“Nah, I did. Douchebag is what I meant… Merle Dixon… The guy wouldn’t give you a glass of water if you were dying of thirst,” Shane spat back at Daryl and eyed Rick, trying to read his mind. 

 

“What he would or wouldn’t do doesn’t interest me. I can’t let a man die of thirst… me. Thirst and exposure. We left him like an animal caught in a trap. That’s no way for anything to die, let alone a human being,” Rick answered the question that Shane begged for, and walked away. 

 

“So, you and Daryl? That’s your big plan?” Lori asked as she rubbed Carl’s back. 

 

He sighed and looked at Glenn who frowned and nodded, “Yeah. Fine.” 

 

“That’s just great, man. Now you’re gonna risk three men, huh?” Shane scoffed and eyed Rick like a dog challenging its owner. 

 

“Four,” T-Dog added as he looked at the group. 

 

Daryl huffed out, shook his head. “My day just gets better and better, don’t it.” 

 

“You see anybody else here stepping up to save your brother’s ass?” T-Dog asked looking at Daryl who remained cleaning his arrows.

 

“Why you?” 

 

“You wouldn’t begin to understand. You don’t speak my language,” T-Dog answered and rolled his eyes. 

 

“That’s four. You’re putting every single one of us at risk. Just know that, Rick. Come on, you saw that walker. It was here! It was in camp! They’re moving out of the cities. They come back, we’re gonna need every able body we’ve got. We need ‘em here! We need ‘em here to protect camp!” Shane growled out in frustration, rubbed the back of his head which drove Rick crazy. It was like popping a rubber band against his wrist… he never understood it. 

 

“It seems to me what you really need most here are more guns,” Rick challenged Shane’s thought process.

 

“Right! The guns!” Glenn spoke up as he walked closer to them in a who’s the bigger man challenge. 

 

“Wait, what guns?” Shane asked, looking at both Glenn and Rick. 

 

“Six shotguns, two high power rifles and over a dozen handguns. I cleaned out the cage back at the station before I left. I dropped the bag in Atlanta when I got swarmed. It’s just sitting there on the street, waiting to be picked up,” Rick answered as he watched Shane’s reaction turn into approving his mission.

 

“Ammo?”

 

“Over seven hundred rounds, assorted,” Rick answered, again, sighing at Shane’s approval. 

 

“You went through hell to find us and especially Carl, you just got here and you’re gonna turn around and leave?” Lori asked in amazement of Rick wanting to leave.

 

“Dad, I don’t want you to go…” Carl whimpered, pleading with his eyes to Rick. 

 

Rick rolled his eyes at Lori putting him on the spot, yet again. Again, she does it again! Now putting his kid up to it to guilt trip him. In his heart, he couldn’t believe he didn’t see what a miserable, heartless bitch she was towards him… and now, he sees it perfectly. 

 

“To hell with the guns… Shane is right. Merle Dixon? He’s not worth one of your lives, even with guns thrown in. Tell me, make me understand!” Lori cried out causing Rick to sigh and walk towards her. He knew deep down that she didn’t care if he left but it was for Carl. Or so he hoped. He was getting whiplash so bad from her it was ridiculous. 

 

“I owe a debt to a man I met and his little boy,-” He sighed as she was tearing up and whipped her head at Carl. “Lori, if they hadn’t taken me in, I’d have died… and I wouldn’t have been given the chance to find my own little boy… and that was my mission.” He paused and looked at Carl and back at Lori who’s tears fell down her cheeks. “They said they’d follow me to Atlanta. They’ll walk into the same trap that I did if I don’t warn him.”

 

Lori swallowed and wiped her tears. “What’s stopping you?” 

 

Rick looked at her, sort of sympathetic. “The walkie-talkie in the bag that I dropped. He’s got the other one. Our plan was to connect when they got closer.” He then turned and looked at Carl who was softly crying. 

 

“These our walkies?” Shane asked as he was sitting on the front bumper of his jeep. 

 

“Yeah.” Rick answered as he turned and looked at Shane. 

 

“So use the CB. What’s wrong with that?” Andrea asked, as if she was really part of the conversation. 

 

“The CB’s are fine, it’s the walkies that suck to crap. Date back to the seventies, and don’t match with any other bandwidth, not even the scanners in our cars,” Shane answered in laymans’ terms. 

 

Rick walked away from Lori and over to Carl. He knelt down and pulled Carl into a hug, “Okay?” and Carl nodded. 





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Daryl waited in the cube van for Rick, T-Dog and Glenn. And impatient as he was, he put his foot on the horn and held it there. “Come on! We ain’t got all day!”

 

While having a conversation with Dale, he looked at Daryl and sighed. Yes, Daryl was acting like a child but at the same time, it made Rick’s stomach turn into butterflies. Yet, they’re still playing the game. Rick grabbed the bolt cutters from Dale and made his way to the cube van.

 

“Hey Rick?  Got any rounds in the Python?” Shane asked as he walked over to the back next to the other cop. 

 

“No.” All Rick could do was look at him. After everything, what else could he want. Damn. 

 

Shane opened the police bag that he brought and sighed heavily, “Last time we were on the gun range, I’m sure I wound up with a few loose rounds of yours.”

 

Rick smiled at the good old days and huffed, “You and that bag, like the bottom of an old lady’s purse.”

 

“I hate that you’re doing this, man. I think that it’s foolish and reckless. But, if you’re gonna go you’re taking bullets.” 

 

“I’m not sure I’d want to fire a shot in the city. Not after what happened last time,” Rick said as he looked at Shane who stopped rummaging through the bag. 

 

“That’s up to you, man,” Shane muttered and looked back at Rick. “Well four men and four rounds. What are the odds, huh? Well, let’s just hope that four is your lucky number, okay?” Shane asseverated as he bit the inside of his cheek.

 

“Thank you,” Rick faintly muttered as he gave a tight smile. He screamed internally, trying to be an asshole to the man who stole his wife who turned and gave you bullets to protect yourself? Why did this have to be so damn hard?

 

As Rick climbed into the passenger seat, he sighed as deep and heavy as he could. He tightened his jaw hoping for some sort of miracle to bring him back to his former mental state. He was slowly dying, or so he felt. Things were looking up for him, or so he thought. He stared down towards the floor board and began to load the only four bullets into the Python and refused to look at Daryl. 

 

Between playing the game with Daryl, making sure the ammo he had was used wisely, he knew that if push came to shove, there was always the possibility of whether to save person A or person B, or trying to do everything he could to save both. But he knew deep down that those four bullets would be used to save Daryl in this hypothetical situation and he couldn’t stomach the urge to look at him. Just because he needed his heart to be clear. He couldn’t let that look from Daryl be what jeopardized his decision. But, he was screwed and he knew it… How could he not be? His focus had to be on the older Dixon and that bag of guns. 





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They arrived just a little ways on the outside of the city just so they could attempt to avoid the dangers that presented itself like last time. 

 

“We walk from here.” Glenn turned and looked at the small group that was in the vehicle. 

 

Rick looked out of the windshield with his brows furrowed and jaw clenched. The four men got out and ran towards the fence that led further into a closed area of the outskirts of the city. They reached the fence that T-Dog had cut their prior visit and all of them crawled through. 

 

“Merle first or guns?” Rick questioned as his head tilted towards Glenn only to be caught off of Daryl. Well, fuck. The point of not making eye contact with Daryl was over.

 

“Merle! We ain’t even having this conversation,” Daryl growled lowly, nostrils flaring with a glare so cold that even Rick had to take a step back. 

 

“We are,” Rick countered as he looked at Glenn, ignoring Daryl’s raging outburst. “You know the geography, it’s your call.” He could feel Daryl’s eyes boring into the back of his head. He didn’t like being that person, but it was the only way to get through the archer.

 

“Merle’s closest. The guns would mean doubling back. Merle first,” Glenn answered and they were instantaneously on their feet running towards the building where Merle was locked.  He knew that it pissed Daryl off even more, but what was he supposed to do? They had to think smarter, not harder. 

 

T-Dog cut the padlock, Daryl pushed his way past everyone only to be brought to his knees, panting as he examined Merle’s hand. Rick cringed as he too looked at the hand. 

 

The spine-chilling screams that was coming out of Daryl was too much for all of them. They stood there, eyes down as the Archer cried out Merle’s name. 

 

It wasn’t long before Daryl was back on his feet, seething at the mouth as he shoved the crossbow in T-Dogs face. Rick rolled his eyes as he once again raised his gun to the back of Daryl’s head. 

 

He clicked it multiple times as it was unloaded, but the point remained that he wasn’t going to allow Daryl or anyone act that way. “I won’t hesitate. I don’t care if every walker in the city hears it.” Of course, he wasn’t going to do it, but that wasn’t the issue. “Drop it.” He highly doubted at that moment that Daryl had it in him to kill another human being, and he hoped that deep down that Daryl didn’t make it escalate to something much more.

 

After what felt like forever, Daryl eventually lowered the gun and huffed heavily. Rick followed in suit as he uncocked his gun, put it in his holster and watched Daryl. 

 

“You got a do-rag or somethin?” Daryl asked as he glared at T-Dog who pulled one out of his back pocket for the Archer. 

 

It didn’t take an elongated time for Daryl to pick Merle’s hand up and wrap it in the rag. “I guess the saw blade was too dull for the handcuffs. Ain’t that a bitch.” 

Glenn whimpered as Daryl made the executive decision on putting his brother’s hand in the bag. 

 

“He must’ve used a tourniquet… maybe his belt. Be much more blood if he didn’t,” Daryl grumbled as he started following the blood. Rick nodded towards T-Dog and Glenn to pick the left tools up and he followed Daryl slowly. 

 

They followed the blood into an open door on the roof, Daryl taking point as they went down the stairs. “Merle! You in here?” 

 

On the lower floor, they searched the empty rooms looking at the walkers that Merle had put down, causing Daryl to slowly stop and look. “Had enough in him to take out these two sumbitches. One handed. Toughest asshole I ever met, my brother,” he added, grabbed an arrow and loaded the bow again.

 

He glared at Rick yet again. “Feed him a hammer, he’d crap out nails.” 

 

“Any man can pass out from blood loss, no matter how tough he is,” Rick added, staring right back at Daryl, then took point on the next room. Internally, he wanted to swat Daryl on the back of the head. Yes, defend Merle… The brother that made your life hell. 

 

“Merle!” Daryl hollered out, right behind Rick. 

 

“We’re not alone in here, Daryl,” Rick muttered as he looked Daryl who looked around the kitchen. 

 

“Screw that. He could be bleeding out. You said so yourself,” Daryl chided, ignoring Rick’s advice. 

 

They moved further in, eyes catching to the gas stove. The flame was high, a belt lay next to it. Rick raised his eyebrows as he picked the iron up not realizing that Glenn was right behind him. 

 

“What’s that burned stuff?” 

 

Rick looked at Daryl. “Skin. He cautorised the stump.” 

 

Glenn was the next to force himself to swallow as he tried to not vomit. 

 

Daryl returned Rick’s look that lasted just a little longer than it should have. “Told you he was tough. Ain’t nobody can kill Merle but Merle.” 

 

“Don’t take that on faith. He’s lost a lot of blood,” Rick mentioned, following Daryl to the window. 

 

“Yeah? Didn’t stop him from busting out of this death trap.”

 

“He left the building!? Why the hell would he do that?” Glenn whispered, watching the archer track and Rick right behind him. 

 

“Why wouldn’t he? He’s out there alone as far as he knows, doing what he’s got to do. Surviving,” Daryl grunted out as he walked away from the broken window, leaving the others.

 

“You call that surviving? Just wandering out in the streets, maybe passing out? What are his odds out there?” T-Dog asked as he watched Daryl pace back and forth, Rick just watching. 

 

“No worse than being handcuffed and left to rot by you sorry pricks,” Daryl answered as he looked at T-Dog then stood in front of Rick, face to face. “You couldn’t kill him. Ain’t worried about some dumb dead bastard.” Well, shit. If that wasn’t one of the sexiest ways he’s seen Daryl. His hair was soaked with sweat, dripping down his neck. 

 

“What about a thousand dumb dead bastards? Different story?” Rick slyly countered. Damn it, Daryl Dixon. The only thing in his mind was the archer's lips, the wall behind them. Fuck the rest of it… because it didn’t matter to him. But damn it all to hell when he had to be the leader. But, point goes to him in this round. 

 

“Why don’t you take a tally? Do what you want. I’m gonna go get him,” Daryl mouthed back, looking at the former deputy up and down. 

 

“Daryl, wait,” Rick growled out, pushing Dary back, his hand on the archer's brawny chest. And the point goes right back to Daryl. Jealousy was going to get the best of him. How the hell did he become great at the game that he started over twenty years ago? 

 

“Get your hands off me! You can’t stop me!” Daryl roared out like a pissed off lion. 

 

Within seconds, Rick was in Daryl’s angelic face. “I don’t blame you. He’s family. I get that. I went through hell to find my son. I know exactly how you feel. He can’t get far with that injury, now we can check out a few blocks if we all keep a level head.” He inhaled deeply. His cock throbbed and the wall was closer. Fuck his life. Fuck the game, but he knew it was Daryl’s way or no way in this sense. 

 

Daryl stood in front of Rick. “I could do that,” he agreed, causing them both to look at T-Dog.

 

“Only if we get those guns first. I’m not strolling the streets of Atlanta with just my good intentions, okay?” he added, eventually getting the okay from Daryl. 


Rick nodded, looked away and then stepped to the side. He stood right behind Daryl as he gave the archer the room to grab the bow. They exchanged looks once more, causing a slight childish grin to Rick’s face. Well, well, well. He was proud that even the game they were playing, he was still able to get through to the Archer. And he immediately knew that he was going to force Daryl to have the conversation that they’ve been avoiding… but not now.

Chapter Text

After they got the bag of guns and began their journey back to the cube van they all stopped. They looked past the fence and it was gone. 

 

“Oh my god.” Glenn was the first to say something. 

 

“Where the hell is our van?” Daryl mustered out, bow over his shoulder, right next to Rick. 

 

“We left it right there! Who would take it!?” Glenn angrily asked as he looked at T-Dog. 

 

Rick’s nostrils flared as he looked at Daryl. “Merle.” 

 

“He’s gonna be taking some vengeance back to camp,” Daryl lowly spoke, already being able to see Rick’s nose hairs.

 

Rick turned red. He was pissed at the situation to begin with. Merle fucking Dixon. Well, fuck a flying duck. The look he received from Daryl, almost knocking him on his ass. He looked at Daryl, nodding at the words his eyes were telling him. He swallowed hard. He couldn’t handle how Daryl was looking at him. 

 

Rick’s blood boiled with jealousy even more as his cock twitched next to his very sweaty leg. He couldn’t control the involuntary actions of his defiant body. Fuck! He just wanted to scream until he didn’t have his voice anymore. Why did it have to be so goddamn difficult. Why did Daryl have to make it so hard! He knew it’d been over twenty years, but doesn’t attraction cancel that out? Doesn’t the past cancel it out? Doesn’t love… love? What the fuck. 

 

He sighed in defeat. 

One more glance between the group and the decision was made. On foot it was, with the blazing sun beating down on them. Not even a mile in, sweat soaked through and they were all panting like dogs trying to cool down and it just wasn’t happening. 

 

Daryl started out strong, right next to Rick in between him and Glenn and eventually slowed down, causing them all to slow down as well. 

 

“You alright?” Rick asked, fixed the bag of guns and watched Daryl hold his sides. He bit his lip and wondered if this was allowed in the game until he realized it was a little bitter. 

 

“‘m fine. Keep goin’. I’ll be right behind y’all,” Daryl gasped, looking at the three men.

 

Rick knelt down next to Daryl who sat on a rock, gasping with his face in pain. “Yeah, you’re fine my ass,” he whispered to the archer who eyed him darkly. “How often you been smoking?” he asked another question, darting his eyes to Daryl’s broad chest then eyes. 

 

Daryl grunted like a teenager, yet still meeting Rick’s eyes, speaking like they always used to. 

 

“Are you having one of your attacks?” Rick very quietly asked as Glenn and T-Dog watched the perimeter. After twenty years, he still knew his former lover. 

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, ‘Officer Grimes’,” Daryl gasped as he talked. 

 

“Right, I’m sure that you don’t,” Rick muttered as their eyes locked, “Take a deep breath, Dixon.” 

 

“Can’t. It hurts.”

 

“Daryl,” Rick sternly spoke, looking at him. Rick’s own breath caught. Well, shit. Hopefully, he could hide his growing member. He couldn’t get over how Daryl’s name rolled off his tongue. 

 

Daryl’s eyes slowly closed as he did was Rick told him and his hands immediately balled into fists. 

 

“Stand up, Daryl,” Rick guided the Archer, causing the other two men to rush over. 

 

“Do you think that’s very wise? He can’t breathe, Rick,” Glenn asked as he watched Daryl intently. 

 

“I know what I’m doing.” Rick smiled gently at both Daryl and Glenn. He had a lot of good memories of getting Daryl to breathe. He gasped at his own thoughts and closed his eyes. Since when had his once mature brain turn into a horny teenager's?

 

“Let’s walk. You need to get your lungs open and working. You know that,” Rick muttered softly as they all began walking towards the quarry. 

 

Rick had Daryl’s arm wrapped around his neck with his own holding Daryl tightly. He could smell Daryl’s musk and the earthly aroma. He grunted in frustration with himself. He and their focus should have been on getting back to the quarry but his focus was more than compromised. How could it not be?

 

“How much further?” Daryl asked as they slowed to a jog. 

 

“Yeah, smoke another, Dixon,” Rick muttered under his breath as he looked at Daryl from the corner of his eyes. If he could get away with the very dirty thoughts that played over and over, he’d be in eternal hell. Especially not having the go ahead. 

 

“If I had them, I would.” He glared at the deputy with a snarl. 

 

Daryl’s smartass remarkrs made him grin. As much as Rick wanted to act on the feelings that had been rustled back up from twenty years prior, he couldn’t. He had to get back to Carl and it was just a couple more miles… only a couple.  “I’m sure. When we get back after these last couple of miles, you can have as many as ya want.” 

 

Rick smiled after reading Daryl’s eyes. ‘What the fuck? I’m just dying here.” 





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Their speed-walking came to an abrupt halt when the blood curdling screams echoed for what seemed like miles upon miles. Rick and Daryl looked at one another, then at T-Dog and Glenn. 

 

“Fuck,” Rick whispered so low that he wasn’t even sure that he’d heard himself. He felt like he was having a heart attack. His arm was tingling and numb. All he kept thinking about was his son… and hoping so much into a prayer that Shane had protected him once more. 

 

“Go, go!” T-Dog yelled as they started running up the gravel road, scared to death on what they’d find, but continuing to go. 

 

Rick panted out into a cry as he finally came to a stop as he and the rest of his group came into the quarry. The only words that came to and out of his mouth were, “Oh my god.” 

 

And within that moment, Rick grabbed the bag of guns and threw one to Glenn. Rick loaded his python as fast as he could and they milatated as one whole group to fight the walkers as the mothers and children ran to the RV. What seemed like what lasted forever, Rick finally grabbed Carl who held onto Lori and he held his son so tight that it probably could’ve crushed every bone. His overwhelming gratitude to having his son, he was brought back to reality with Andrea’s wailing and everyone stopped what they were doing and cast their eyes to her. 

 

Later that night and into early morning, Rick had kept watch over the group as the others tried their best to sleep. They lost a great deal of their members, including Andrea’s younger sister who laid at the bottom of the RV with Andrea sitting there, waiting. He knew exactly what she was feeling and what she would be feeling after Amy’s second death. He was fucked in is his decision that he’d have to make. 

 

Carl, of course, was in the tent with Lori and Shane. He’d have felt better having his boy in the RV where they couldn’t get him… But he just didn’t have it in him to fight with Lori… Already knowing the fight she’d start in the morning. Daryl was wherever the hell he slept. He didn’t ever see the Archer sneak away and regrettably, he couldn’t stress about that. 

 

After only a few hours, the sun was up, everyone who had managed to sleep looked just a tad bit better than the ones who didn’t, Rick included. He just didn’t have any idea how any of them could sleep after what happened. 

 

T-Dog, Glenn, Morales and Jaqui  began a fire and started to make sure the walkers were dead, along with their group members before separating them into piles. 

 

Rick yawned as Shane emerged from the tent along with Lori, the pain in the ass woman always had to put her two cents in to everything, and Daryl had magically appeared as they stood around where the fire normally was in an exquisite conversation.  

 

“She still won’t move?” he asked, looking at the middle aged blonde who cried over her lifeless sister. 

 

“She won’t even talk to us,” Lori added as Rick looked her way, “She’s been there all night. What do we do?” 

 

“Can’t just leave Amy like that. We need to deal with it… same as the others,” Shane piped in as well, sighing very heavily feeling his own share of guilt. 

 

Rick bit his bottom lip, looked once more to Andrea, then back at Shane, Lori, and Dale. “I’ll tell her how it is.” 

 

He slowly stalked towards Andrea and shook his head. Who were they to tell them she couldn’t take her time grieving her baby sister? And why the fuck was he the one who had to do it?  As soon as he reached her and said her name, the gun was cocked and aimed right at his head. Well, fuck… that escalated relatively quick. 

 

“I know how the safety works,” she threatened as she watched Rick back away very slowly. 

 

Daryl stood in the back by the fire with his bow aimed in one hand and the pick axe in the other. Shane and Lori stood with their guns aimed as well. 

 

Daryl put his bow down, took the pick axe and watched Rick saunter back towards them. “Y’all can’t be serious, let that girl hamstring us? The dead girl is a time bomb.” 

 

Rick gazed at Daryl. “What do you suggest?” he then looked down at his feet. He really was asking, not to just entertain the idea. He didn’t want to make this decision because who were they, truthfully, to determine the amount of time of grief. 

 

“Take the shot. Clean, in the brain from here! Hell, I can hit a turkey between the eyes from this distance,” Daryl answered as he moved in front of Rick, pleading to him. 

 

“No. For God's sakes, let her be,” Lori muttered and sat down on a chair. 

 

Rick and Shane looked at one another then at Daryl. Well, fuck him in the ass… again. Do what Daryl wants and it causes a fierce quarrel, or don’t give what Daryl wants and it causes more profound challenges between them. He was utterly fucked. And once more, Daryl walked away from the conversation. 





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“Wake up, Jimbo. We’ve got work to do,” Daryl grumbled, making his way to help Morales pull a body to the fire. 

 

“Hey, what’re you guys doing? This is for geeks. Our people go over there,” Glenn explained, looking at them both with disgust. 

 

“What’s the difference? They’re all infected,” Daryl asked, pure irritation in his face and tone. 

 

“Our people go in that row over there. We don’t burn them! We bury them. Understand?” Glenn expressed in his own frustrations and stared at both Daryl and Morales until they both moved the body. 

 

“You reap what you sow!” Daryl hollered back at Glenn and looked at Morales. 

 

“You know what? Shut up, man,” Morales grunted out as they both dropped the body in the pile of the other group members. 

 

“Y’all left my brother for dead! You had this coming!” He screamed out, walked away and lit himself a cigarette.

 

Jim and Jaqui were also helping out with the bodies of both walkers and their group. She bent down to get one shoulder and looked up at Jim, “Are you bleeding?”

 

“I just got some on me from the bodies,” Jim muttered and bent down to the other shoulder. 

 

“That blood is fresh. Were you bit?” Jaqui pressed as she looked him deep in the eyes, not giving up. 

 

“No. Got scratched during the attack,” he answered again, and bent down once more. 

 

“You got bit!” she stressed, standing up from the hick. 

 

“I’m fine, Jaqui!” he quietly spoke as he tried to not draw attention. 

 

“Then show me!” she said with her voice quavering. 

 

They locked eyes and he moved closer towards her, “Don’t tell, please,” he pleaded as he looked at her more. 

 

“A walker got him. A walker bit Jim!” she cried out, voice trilled as she backed away. 

 

Daryl immediately ran over with the pick axe over his shoulder, Rick and Shane in tow. “Show it to us, show it to us!” 

 

Jim frantedly grabbed the shovel and turned towards the group as he panted. 

 

“Grab him,” Daryl hollered, moving closer to the older man. 

 

“Jim, put it down! Put it down, right now!” Shane yelled over everyone’s chattering and T-Dog grabbed his arms, making him drop the shovel. 

 

Within a second, Daryl raised his shirt revealing the bite. T-Dog pushed him away and they all stood around looking at him. Just another tragedy to deal with, in their eyes. Jim was moved the sit at the back of the RV while the group stood in a circle to determine what the next step should be. 

 

“I say we put a pickaxe in his head and the dead girl’s and be done with it,” Daryl muttered as he looked around at the group. 

 

“Is that what you’d want if it were you?” Shane asked as he looked at Daryl. 

 

“Yeah, and I’d thank you while you did it,” Daryl answered with a low grumble in his chest. 

 

“I hate to say it, and I never thought I would, but maybe Daryl’s right,” Dale added as he looked at Shane and Rick. 

 

“Jim’s not a monster, Dale, or some rabid dog-” Rick began and sighed heavily, “He’s sick. A sick man. We start down that road, where do we draw the line?”

 

“The line’s pretty clear. Zero tolerance for walkers, or them to be,” Daryl answered out with more frustration as he and Rick locked eyes. 

 

“What if we can get him help? I heard the CDC was working on a cure,” Rick questioned then glanced around at the group. 

 

“I heard that too. Heard a lot of things before the world went to hell,” Shane added as he messed with his gloves. 

 

“What if the CDC is still up and running?” Rick asked, put his hands on his waist and looked from Daryl to Shane. 

 

“Man, that is a stretch right there,” Shane muttered, looking at the ground and rubbed the back of head in irritation.

 

“Why? If there’s any government left, any structure at all, they’d protect the CDC at all costs, wouldn’t they? I think it’s our best shot… Shelter, protection...” Rick asked as he tried to reach a common ground with Shane. Why were they always battling. Always fighting one another. Why not just take their dicks out and measure whose was the biggest.  He glanced at Daryl for some need of knowing that at least one person had his back but Daryl just glanced away. 

 

“Okay, Rick, you want those things alright, I do too… Now, if they exist, they’re at the army base. At Fort Benning,” Shane again tried to reason but hit a brick wall as Rick rolled his eyes. 

 

“That’s a hundred miles in the opposite direction,” Lori added as she looked at both former deputies. 

 

“That’s right, but it’s away from the hot zone. If that place is operational, it’ll be heavily armed and we’d be safe there.”

 

“The military were on the front lines of this thing. They got overrun, we’ve all seen that! The CDC is our best choice and Jim’s only chance,” Rick pleaded as he looked between Shane, Dale and Daryl. 

 

“Nah, Rick’s right. CDC would be protected at all costs,” Daryl muttered looking at Rick with a gentle grin. 


“I say we swim to the closest ship, not further out to sea,” Rick finally said as he looked at the group, “CDC is where we are going.” That damn grin was going to be the death of him.

Chapter Text

Rick rode shotgun in Dale’s RV with Andrea, Glenn, Carol and Sophia. He and Lori got into a heated argument about Carl going with him or with Shane and her in the jeep. Of course, Lori was always going to win that argument. “A boy should be with his mother,” is the line she used… but yet she meant it to be a lot darker and meaner. 

 

Glenn basically sat on the floor in-between Dale and Rick reading the map. Jim screamed and moaned out in pain as the fever set it. Always telling them that his bones felt like glass that shattered on every bump they hit, causing them to stop. 

 

“Leave me here. I’m done. Just leave me, man. I just want to be with my family,” Jim gasped out in uncontrollable amount of pain. 

 

Rick sighed and looked at Jim with nothing but hurt in his blue eyes. “They’re all dead, Jim. I don’t think you know what you’re asking. The fever, Jim… You’ve been delirious more often than not.”

 

“I know. Don’t you think I know, Rick? I’m clear now and in five minutes I may not be. Rick, I know what I’m asking and I want this. Please, leave me here. That’s on me… It ain’t on you. It’s not your failure.”

 

Rick came out of the RV and stood in front of the group and sighed. He explained exactly what Jim was requesting, causing them all to look at him with a look of questioning. “Guys, it’s what he wants. It’s what he is asking.” 

 

“And he’s lucid?” Carol asked as she looked at Rick, who struggled with the realization of what was going on. 

 

“He seems to be. I would say yes,” he answered as his hands went to his hips and head looking at his feet.

 

They left Jim as he requested and were back on the road towards the CDC but as they approached, it was up in flames, the fire attracting the corpses . Rick’s plan went to shit as everything else seemed to be heading. The CDC was gone and their one chance at shelter, food and protection was gone. His family, his group, they were disgruntled, especially Shane. He kept voicing his opinion on how Rick was wrong, undermining his every turn. Rick was pissed, in every single way that he felt. He led the group to a dead end with nothing to promise. He didn’t ask to be put in as leader or co-leader, yet here he was. Making decisions for these people who didn’t know him from Adam and trusted his decisions, and the only other decision from there was to head back on the road. 

 

Rick got back into the RV with Carl this time round while Shane and Lori rode in the jeep behind the RV and Daryl in front on the bike. He poked his tongue lightly in the side of his cheek, forcing his lungs to inhale deeply. He was just so pissed and frustrated about everything, especially waking up to the world like this. Or how was Carl going to grow up in this world and the stupid fucking game that he and Daryl were silently playing. 

 

While lost in his thoughts, he didn’t even realize the pile up on the interstate that they were heading into. Not until the radiator hose busted with white smoke clouding their view like a fire extinguisher going off. The RV immediately came to a stop and he sighed heavily. Yep, this was definitely his luck. He couldn’t fucking save a life. The decision to go to the CDC wasn’t the best, with it already being gone. Now being further from Fort Benning, on a jammed interstate with nowhere to go… Yep, fuck his damn life. God had some cruel jokes now. 

 

His face turned bright crimson and nostrils flared. His knees bounced so hard that it shook the RV and his hands were balled into fists. If there was anything else that God had planned against him, now would be the time for it. 

 

“See a way through?” Dale hollered through the window over the roaring of Daryl’s bike. Daryl nodded and started making his way through the pile up before coming back to the group. He cut the bike off and climbed off of it.

 

“So?” Shane asked as he and Rick were outside the RV standing with the rest of the group. 

 

“A lot of cars… It’s a pile up… I’m sure we can make room by using the jeep,” Daryl mentioned as he studied the surrounding dilemma. 

 

Shane cleared his throat and crossed his arms. “You want to what?” he asked as his hands moved to rub his face.

 

“Shane, it’s just a vehicle,” Rick muttered with contempt in his voice.

 

“Really, Rick? You know what it took to finally get this jeep and now you want me to bust the front and back ends up?” Shane whined as he looked at Rick. 

 

Rick sighed and looked at Shane then at Daryl and back to Shane. Well, before the world went to shit and their friendship, they picked the jeep out together… So, Rick knew exactly what Shane was feeling but Daryl was right. “Shane, I’m sorry. I know what it means but Daryl’s right. You’re the only one with a working vehicle and his bike can’t move these cars out of the way.”

 

“Right, I’m sure you do know what it means, Rick,” Shane growled as he climbed in the jeep, making Lori get out. 

 

Rick shook his head, looked at Daryl with a gentle smile then sighed. He knew that Daryl was right, Rick was right. The bike wouldn’t do the job, the RV was out and Shane was so adamant to lose the other cars to cut down on the gas being used… so yeah, Shane was going to have to sacrifice his precious jeep. What else was he supposed to do?

 

“Alright, y’all. While Shane and Daryl try to make a way for us, start gathering what supplies you can find,” Dale mentioned to the group as he grabbed a shotgun from the bag and started scanning the perimeter. 

 

“What about that hose?” Glenn asked as he looked at Dale who stood on top of the RV. 

 

“We’ll figure it out. Now, go on and learn something. It’s the flathead.” Dale smiled and watched as Glenn started coughing at the white smoke surrounded the young Korean kid. 





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Lori, Carol, Carl and Sophia began looking through the abandoned cars searching for everything and anything that they could use. Glenn had given up on the radiator hose and had joined Shane who just so happened to find a truck of water. Daryl had kept watch on the other side of the interstate and kept glancing back at the former deputy who kept watch on the opposite side. Dale stood on the RV with his binoculars keeping watch from higher up. 

 

Rick didn’t have binoculars, so he used the scope on the shotgun. When it finally focused, he saw just the one walker, cocked his gun and went back to look into the scope and growled from low in his stomach. Dale looked down at him and Rick pointed towards what he was looking at and immediately started after where everyone was searching at. 

 

His heart beat so hard against his chest that it hurt to breathe. The sound was thrashing against his ears and he instantly looked at Daryl who looked right back at him then at what he was running from. 

 

“Get down!” He quietly raised his voice. Two down then to get to Carl, Sophia, Carol and Lori. 

 

He ran in-between the cars as fast and quietly as he could. His focus was on the groups safety and Carl. And Daryl… And Lori. He could be an ass, he knew that but even in his anguished heart he knew he just couldn’t let anything happen to the mother of his child. So, fuck him sideways for still being a decent human being. 

 

“Carl, Sophia! Get down and stay quiet!” Rick softly yelled as he watched the youngins crawl underneath the cars, then looked at Lori and Carol. Thankfully, for once, Lori hadn’t tried fighting with him. It truly did make his life just a tad bit easier. But one thing still popped in his mind besides Carl. Daryl. 

 

Shane grabbed Glenn and threw him under the closest truck that they would both fit under. T-Dog and Daryl fought their way through the maze of cars which was harder than it seemed with the hoard coming towards them. The dead corpses laid everywhere and every step they took made it easier for them to fall, which is exactly what happened. T-Dog took a step the wrong way and down he went, his forearm sliced and started to bleed profusely. He collapsed next to a car and Daryl grabbed a dead corpse and threw it over T-Dog just hoping that it’d mask the smell for both of them. 

 

Rick uttered a popping hiss of frustration. Why would it only be frustration? What about anger, irritation, resentment or even annoyance? Or hell, what about anxiety, being powerless or panic? Carl was lying less than a yard away from him, under a car with no protection… including Sophia. Literally everything and every single feeling knocked the wind out of him. He begged as if he believed in God to keep his boy and the group safe.

 

Several moments passed as the entire group laid under the abandoned wrecked cars and no one heard or saw anything from above them. Thinking it was safe, Sophia started to climb out but to only start screaming when two walkers surprised them all and started coming after her. Rick, Carol, Lori and Carl watched in horror. Carol began crying, Lori covering her mouth to keep her quiet. 

 

Rick immediately crawled out from under the car and started over the side railing after Sophia. And down he went, tumbling over and over until he reached the end, and on his feet. He heard the wailing from the young girl as she ran through the forest. He ran until he couldn’t breathe and was right there when she fell on the ground. He scooped her up in her arms and hid her in the very back of a small cave knowing that the walkers were going to be coming. He had no other option than to leave her there, alone. 

 

“Sophia, you have to do exactly as I say. Hide in there, squeeze in tight. I’ll drive them away,” Rick explained as easily as he could. She was a young, terrified girl, and the last thing he wanted was to leave her all alone. 

 

“No, no. Don’t leave me! Please!” She cried holding onto him. 

 

“Listen, listen, Sophia, They don’t get winded, I do. I can only deal with them one at a time. I wouldn’t be able to protect you. This is how we both live, Sophia. Do you understand?” he whispered, rubbing his hands over her trembling face, wiping her tears as she nodded. “Okay, go… go in there, sweetheart.” 

 

He watched as she went in as he told her and watched the walkers coming towards the creek, “If I don’t make it back, run back to the highway, back to the others. Straight the way we came and keep the sun on your left shoulder.” And within that second, the walkers appeared. 

 

“Come on! You ugly son of a bitch! Come on!” And in that moment, one of them fell, Rick realizing that he got exactly what he asked for. He started running, calling them, doing his best to lead them from where he hid Sophia away. He grabbed the closest rock and bashed their heads in. He refused to use his gun for the fact of the hoard that had just passed them. He refused to put any of them in danger.





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“Man, you sure this is the spot?” Daryl asked then turned and looked at Rick. 

 

“I left her right here. I drew the walkers way off in that direction, up the creek,” Rick explained as he was bent over, still attempting to catch his breath. 

 

“Without a paddle, seems where we’ve landed,” Daryl muttered and turned away from Rick heading back. 

 

“She was gone by the time I got back here. I figured she took off and ran back to the group. I told her, ‘Go that way and keep the sun on her left shoulder’ .” Rick sighed as he pointed towards the way he was talking and watched as Daryl moved that way. He knew that Daryl would be the best one on this issue, being a hunter and tracker. Plus, it gave him the reason to be together. 

 

“Hey, Short Round, why don’t you step off to one side? You’re mucking up the trail,” Daryl grunted as he came up out of the creek, giving Rick a hand. 

 

“Assuming she knows  her left from her right,” Shane smarted off, looking at both Daryl and Rick, then back through the forest.

 

“Shane, she understood me fine!” Rick lowly raised his voice, not caring if Glenn or Daryl was to pick up on the tension. He was done. He was over Shane’s bullshit and always trying to be the better one. He may have been a shitty husband in Lori’s eyes, but at least deep down he knew in his heart that he’d never steal his best friend's wife while fighting for his life. 

 

Shane groaned out, “Kid’s tired and scared, man. She just had a close call with two walkers, you gotta wonder how much of what you said stuck.”

 

“I got clear prints right here. She did what you said and headed back to the highway… Let’s spread out and make our way back,” Daryl cut into Rick and Shane’s pissing match. 

 

Daryl led the search with Rick, Shane and Glenn in tow. He stared at the ground, looking for footprints that were anything near Sophia’s. They had to find the young girl, for Carol and for their sanity. 

 

“She was doing just fine 'til right here. All she had to do was keep going.” Daryl knelt down with Shane and Rick as Glenn kept watch. “She veered off that way.”

 

“Why would she do that?” Glenn asked as he too looked at the trail that they were looking at.

 

“Maybe she saw something that spooked her, made her run off?” Shane answered with a question to Daryl. 

 

“A walker?” Glenn asked.

 

“Nah, I don’t see any other footprints. Just hers,” Daryl answered, looking at Rick who stood back up and started breathing heavily. 

 

“So what do we do? All of us press on?” Shane questioned Rick as they stood back up. 

 

“No, better if you and Glenn get back up to the highway. People are gonna start panicking.  Let them know that we’re on her trail, doing everything that we can. But most of all, keep everyone calm,” Rick responded as he sighed heavily. He couldn’t handle another awful tragedy. Not two days in a row. 

 

Shane nodded towards Rick and walked off with Glenn, leaving Rick and Daryl alone. Rick looked at the Archer with his heart thudding against his chest. They’d not been alone at all… and despite the circumstances, he was glad. He needed the alone time with Daryl. 

 

Rick followed Daryl further into the forest as they continued to track Sophia the best way that they could. He stared at Daryl from behind and he watched the Archer’s strong shoulders moving as Daryl pointed things out to him. His hips swaying with every step further and he sighed. He couldn’t help himself, no matter how hard he tried. What they may have had may have been a very long time, but seeing the man for the first time in that long had literally knocked him on his ass. He couldn’t get the Archer out of his mind, couldn’t keep his eyes off of him and the thoughts weren’t the best at the time… but he had the time to take it all in. He was drunk on Daryl Dixon still, after all the years. He had to talk to him and this had to be the time. The game had to be over at least just between them. They could play it in front of everyone else, but Rick just had to end it. 

 

“So, Daryl…” Rick muttered as they stepped over some branches and he looked around for threats of walkers. 

 

“Hmm?” Daryl hummed out as he continued on, not turning around. 

 

“You’ve been, uh, well…” Rick stuttered as he watched the sweat stroll down Daryl’s neck and he bit his lower lip. Damn it, Grimes! Just speak. He was fucked. He had so much to say but couldn’t find the goddamn words.

 

“What, Rick? Just say it. Ain’t no one around...” Daryl muttered out as he slowed down and stared at the ground. 

 

“I just want to know why you’ve been pretending that you didn’t know me. For weeks. The looks, the glances? The fact that you were with my wife and son… and Shane,” Rick quickly said, darting his eyes anywhere but the figure in front of him. 

 

Daryl scoffed into a rough chuckle and knelt down. “Tracks are faint but they ain’t gone. She came through here,” still focused on finding the girl. 

 

Rick glanced at the Archer who still walked further. “How can you tell? I don’t see anything but dirt and grass.” 

 

“You want a lesson in tracking or you want to find that girl and get our ass off that interstate?” Daryl grunted out, still moving forward through the damp forest. 

 

Rick remained quiet and followed Daryl. He’d follow the man over a cliff even after all the years apart. He knew that Daryl never forgave him or was told that. Their past wasn’t the easiest… or rather, their break up. But over twenty years later, he still trusted the Archer with his life and he gave him his heart and never got it back. He was ripped from his thoughts by the sound of rustling leaves and tree branches snapping. They immediately ducked down to keep out of sight when they saw the lone walker and sighed. Daryl glanced at Rick, pointing out that he’d go to the right and Rick go to the left, then winked. His fucking heart stopped, right there. That wink. God bless. He prayed that maybe just maybe Daryl really did  hear what he was saying earlier. 

 

Rick whistled out to the walker as he locked eyes with Daryl who raised his bow and shot it in the back of the head. It didn’t take Daryl long to get to the walker and Rick to retrieve the arrow. 

 

“Sophia!” Daryl yelled out as they both looked around with just a hint of hope that she’d appear and noticed that Rick had his gloves on, searching the walker. “What’re you looking for?” 

 

Very quietly Rick muttered out, “Skin under the fingernails,” then he turned the walker over as Daryl moved closer to him. “It fed recently. There’s flesh caught in it’s teeth.” 

 

“Yeah, what kinda flesh?” Daryl asked as he examined the item in Rick’s fingers and rolled his eyes as Rick grabbed his pocket knife from his back pocket, “I’ll do it, man. How many kills have you skin and gutted in your life? Plus, mine is sharper,” And away he went with gutting the walker.

 

Rick watched intently and sighed. Sighing as he watched Daryl more than the gutting. “Daryl, come on.”

 

“Didn’t know that was yer wife and son, honest. I knew who Shane was but he didn’t know who I was… So, it made’t easier for me to pretend that I was just some white trash bastard with the racist brother,” Daryl grunted as he cut through the body to get to the stomach.

 

Rick stared hard at Daryl and cleared his throat. “You looked right at me and acted like you didn’t know who I was. You played this game all the time twenty years ago and have apparently mastered it over the years.”

 

“It wasn’t a game. I was honestly hoping that you didn’t even remember me, but I knew as soon as we looked at one another that you did. So, I decided that I was going to pretend that I truly didn’t.” 

 

Rick hummed as he watched Daryl search through the stomach. “I knew that you remembered me. I seen it in your eyes. I will be honest though, I don’t want to do this game anymore.” 

 

Daryl sifted through the guts and grunted. “Hoss had a big meal not too long ago. I feel it in there,” he then pulled the ‘gut bag’ out of the walker and looked at Rick. 

 

“I’ll do it,” Rick muttered out as he cut through the bag and they both looked through it. 

 

“This gross bastard had himself a woodchuck for lunch,” Daryl grunted as he stood up, holding his hand out to Rick. 

 

“At least we know.” Rick sighed and grabbed the hunter's hand.

 

“At least we know,” Daryl countered back as he grabbed his bow. “And me either,” he added, then looked at the former deputy.

 

The sun started to set as they started heading back to the interstate. The blues and pinks began to mix together, the clouds brighter. It was truly a beautiful scene. When they were nearly back to the interstate, Rick slowed down, causing Daryl to stop.

 

“You do know we are going to have to actually talk about things more, right?” Rick asked, looking at the Archer. 

 

Daryl turned towards the interstate, blinked, then turned to Rick. “I imagine that we will have plenty of time for that, Officer Grimes.”

 

“‘ Officer Grimes’ ? Really? We’re back to that now?” Rick asked as he used his fingers for quotation marks. 

 

“Can’t go back up there acting like we both knew one another all along, now. Raise questions for yer wife, Shane…  the entire group, man,” Daryl grunted out. 

 

“Ex-wife, actually. She and Shane are actually together. Just me and my son,” Rick muttered as he moved closer to stand beside the Archer. 

 

Daryl hummed, “As I just said, we have plenty of time for a ‘talk’ . You waited over twenty years… ain’t gonna hurt to wait a little longer.” 

 

“Yeah.” Rick sighed as they slowly walked up the steep dirt hill. 

 

“Oh God! They’re back!” Glenn said as he sat the basket down, the group walking to the side rail.