Life After Death.
The Best Night Ever
"So Pipe, are you excited for prom?" the beaming voice came off the candy apple colored lips which belonged to her cousin and friend, Jennifer Bell. The blonde was off to Piper's right and the girls had just settled into the beautician chairs at King County's local salon. Behind and all around them were other senior girls getting prepped for the event that was considered a rite of passage. Jennifer, who only had to walk into a room to become the center of attention, lived for parties of any kind. From middle school dances, where boys, teetering on the edge of puberty, were afraid to even look at the already matured girls in fear that they'd be prompted to dance, to a very uncomfortable college party that the blonde had dragged the less-than-willing seventeen year old Piper to just a short year earlier. Five minutes in the frat house surrounded by horny college guys and inebriated girls with the smell of sweat and hormones seething from the bodies grinding on one another and Piper had found herself hiding in the laundry room of all places. After an hour of sitting on the washing machine, kicking her flat-clad feet against the metal to the melody of whatever song was blasting from the speakers in the living room, she'd emerged from her hiding spot, into the large kitchen that housed a phone. And, after dialing Shane Walsh's number only to realize that he himself, was out for the night, she had been relieved to hear the groggy voice of Rick Grimes on the other end. When Rick had finally arrived to save Piper, and, after chiding her much like a father would his daughter, despite their closeness in years, the pair found Jennifer happily sandwiched in between two frat boys, hypnotizing them with the sashaying of her hips.
Part of Piper wished she could have been as gregarious as her cousin. And, while it was true that the girls shared a last name, they were on opposite sides of the spectrum. Piper's father, Michael Bell, was the oldest son of five children, and the second oldest overall, with Jennifer's father, Evan, having been the third child. The only boys in a family of three girls, they grew up thick as thieves. Michael Bell who only really trusted two boys around his only daughter often said to her that Rick and Shane emulated the relationship that Michael and Evan had as high schoolers. One of them, Piper's father, which the brunette found hard to believe, had been quite popular among his female peers. That was, until Laura Chandler, Piper's mother, caught his eye. And, Evan, who had always been a bit of a hopeless romantic and pickier about the women he chose to court, married his high school sweetheart, Jane Everett. Naturally, the brothers stood as one another's Best Man.
And, while Michael and Evan shared the Bell likeness, the cousins did not. Save Piper's chocolate brown locks and Jennifer's eyes, which the girls inherited from their fathers, as well as a single shared trait; their lean legs, Piper and Jennifer resembled their mothers.
Jennifer, affectionately known as "JJ" among the student body, mirrored Jane. With golden blonde tresses that complimented her fair skin and cascaded down to the small of her back. She normally wore her light-textured hair down and in loose waves, framing her heart-shaped face and accentuating her green eyes. The teenager's small, ski-sloped nose sat above her full lips and her smile was infectious. Years of volleyball, her sport of choice, had toned an athletic body. Naturally svelte, her stomach, despite the girl's eating habits, was trim and her arms toned. Almost doll-like, she carried herself with confidence and had a charisma that made her easy to like. Her charm made her popular among King County High's male population, and a desirable prom date, but Jennifer had hooked Tom Chase, number twelve on the football team. Her boyfriend of six months, they were a handsome couple and Jennifer had spent the entire spring campaigning for King and Queen.
Piper, whose affectionate nicknames were used only by close family and friends, was the polar opposite of her cousin. Taking after Laura in looks, Piper's rounded face came with laughter-based blue eyes, nearly identical to her mother's. Her nose was rounded and small-tipped and her lips, though thinner than Jennifer's, still held a bit of volume. Standing at five-foot-seven, Piper had never been naturally slender like her cousin, and retained some body fat as well as curves, but she was never far off from Jennifer's weight. Her calves were toned and her thighs were strengthened from her time in the saddle. Complimenting her facial features was her head of hair. Thick brunette locks that matched Michael's were worn in a layered shoulder-length cut with side swept bangs. It was often that Piper let her hair grow out and down to her shoulder blades, ignoring her split ends. And, unlike Jennifer, Piper held little confidence in her looks, preferring to keep to herself in social situations. Her classmates obliged and, it was often that Piper stood, unnoticed, next to Jennifer.
The lack of attention rarely hurt Piper's feelings, though. She was a good student, described as consciousness and diligent by her teachers and she had never felt the need to be surrounded by large groups of people. She had never been closed off to the prospect of making friends. No, in fact, in her twelve years as a student, Piper Bell had made a few close friends. As it was, though, unlike Jennifer, Piper had never liked to surround herself with more than a couple people, acquaintances especially, at once. People meant pressure and Piper envied the fact that Jennifer could handle the pressure. The blonde had a way with words. Piper, on the other hand, usually good with her words, was diminished to nothing more than a rambling idiot when a particularly attractive classmate was thrown into the mix. Piper Bell and large groups of people made for an embarrassing and uncomfortable concoction. Jennifer was the wordsmith and the one who concerned herself with making friends. Piper had made getting through the King County school system unscathed by peer pressure and expulsion her end goal.
One classmate, a friend, Piper enjoyed being around and conversing with, was Eric Summers and, Jennifer's pre-prom scheme hadn't seemed too laughable at its conception. Jennifer, ever the matchmaker, had a knack for coming up with convoluted plans, most of which never worked the way they were intended. Plan Get Eric to Ask Piper or, more subtly known as Plan GETAP, when in the crowded hallways of King County High, had been no different than the rest of the blonde's plans. Unlike the outgoing blonde, Piper had never had boys lining up to take her out. Prom had been no exception, but Jennifer had made a promise to her cousin.
Eric Summers, a close friend of Jennifer's boyfriend, had been Piper's crush since freshman year and, thanks to the many classes the pair had had together since; Piper had gotten to know the brown-eyed football player. Never loud or crass like the majority of the football team, Eric had always been polite to Piper. Standing just over six feet with and athletic physique and boyish good looks, he carried himself with confidence. But, it wasn't Eric's looks that had drawn Piper to him. He was intelligent and well-spoken and, like Piper, a diligent worker, willing to share the load on a chemistry project they had done together, instead of passing off the work in its entirety to Piper. He was genuine and listened when others spoke to him and whenever he said her name, Piper's heart trekked up to her throat, and her stomach fluttered in an anxious and excited anticipation.
The feelings were not reciprocated, however. A thought that plagued the back of her mind, the realization came just a week before the big event. And, if Piper had needed further convincing that things would not sway in her favor, Sarah Mitchell's locker room talk of Eric asking her to prom had done the job. With tears forming in her eyes, Piper was prepared to accept her role as Jennifer and Tom's third wheel. She was used to it, being a third wheel. Being without a date would not end Piper's world. It wasn't unprecedented to attend prom alone. The idea of strolling through the doors unaccompanied was not the cause of the growing lump in her throat or the tears that rolled down her cheeks. It was who would not be accompanying her to prom that troubled her. If the inkling that Eric Summers would ask her to prom had never planted itself in her brain, Piper would have been just fine to walk tall on prom night. But she'd fabricated the silly notion that Jennifer's plan would be it. That her feelings for Eric would be revealed to him and he would come to some sort of realization. Piper had put all of her eggs in a basket. And she dropped it.
So Shane Walsh saved the day.
Piper's hero, Shane had a knack for saving the day. It was a habit of his, swooping in and making things better. Rescuing Piper from her prom date disaster hadn't been any different.
A police officer at King County Police Department, Shane Walsh had a lot on his plate. He loved his job, and despite working long hours next to his partner, Rick Grimes, in the cab of their cruiser, and living a busy social life after most shifts, Shane always made time for Piper Bell.
They hadn't asked to be in each other's lives, Shane and Piper. Brought together by their mothers, old college roommates who had coincidentally moved to the small Georgian town and enjoyed coffee and catching up, Shane and Piper functioned in a state of coexistence for years. And, it wasn't until a bleating summer day that Shane Walsh had come to realize and appreciate the friend he had in Piper.
Growing up in the Walsh household, for Shane, had never been sunshine and rainbows. And, July 29th, 1984, a ten year old Shane, fed up, found himself peddling his bike to Baker Street. A puzzled Laura Bell answered the door, her seven year old daughter behind her. Laura hadn't even asked Shane what he was doing on her doorstep before the little girl stepped in front of her mother, took Shane by the hand, and lead him to the backyard. It was there that the duo played games of tag and catch until the sunset. The boy, upon Piper's request, then stayed for dinner of spaghetti and meatballs and a sleepover where the friends watched videos until they passed out, exhausted, on the living room floor. That sweltering day in July had been just the first of many times Shane found solace at the Bell house and with Piper. And, each time, his friend showed him the same kindness she had the first time. She was a loyal, compassionate confidante and Shane couldn't help but smile when he thought of Piper Bell. He cared for her, just like she did him. He enjoyed her company and he admired the person she was. She kept him from acting like a complete knucklehead and, in turn, he had never been sure what she got out of the friendship, but the girl kept him around, and he was better for it.
He owed her much more, but buying her a burger every now and again certainly made up for all of the meals he'd eaten at her house.
And, as his jeep sped down the King County road on a Monday afternoon, Shane mused plans from the driver's seat, "So I was thinkin'," he turned to look at Piper, "We go to the cafe, get a bite, maybe see a movie later."
Piper, whose gaze was focused out the window, her eyes scanning the greenery as they passed, nodded, "Yeah," she spoke into the glass, her tone monotonous.
Shane took note, "Then maybe we could, uh, rob a bank. You be my getaway driver."
"Sounds good," Piper exhaled, turning her head and resting it on the window.
Shane eyed his friend. Before she'd gotten in the car, he had chalked up her slumped shoulders and sober expression to a rough day of school. He figured they'd get a couple miles down the road and Piper would forget about her day and light right up. But, as he looked at her, her blue eyes dull, her expression unenthused, it was clear that she was hurting.
"What's goin' on Pipe?" he asked, concern laced in his voice.
Piper leaned forward in her seat and reached for the backpack she had haphazardly thrown on the floor. Unzipping it, the teen dug around, bypassing her notebooks, before wrapping her hand around a pack of gum, "You know," she began, opening the pack and grabbing a stick, "Your average case of chemistry," she went on, shoving the piece of gum in her mouth and straightening up in the seat, "Worried about the final."
Shane cocked a brow, seeing through the veil she'd thrown up. He knew his friend all too well, "Now that's crap and you know it. What's up?"
Piper let out a deep sigh, "You know Eric Summers? Well, Jen and I - okay, Jen - came up with this stupid plan to get him to ask me to prom," Piper let out a bitter laugh, "Guaranteed to work. And guess what? It did - for Sarah Mitchell. And now tickets are almost sold out and y'know, I don't even know if I wanna go to this stupid thing anymore. Why would I want to go just to watch him dance with her?"
"Pipe-" Shane started, but Piper had already gone into full ramble mode.
"I mean," Piper turned her body to face Shane and slumped against the door as tears brimmed her eyes, "Am I just that invisible to him? That unappealing? Just some girl in his classes who he's occasionally friendly with? Are we even friends?" Piper's brows knit and she looked down at her lap, "Or am I just imagining it?" Piper looked at Shane, whose eyes were split between the country road and Piper, "I'm trying not to over think it, but what if he's only nice to me because he feels bad for me? Or 'cause he knows I'll let him borrow a pen or something. Like, our conversations go through one ear and out the other and everything I've said to him for the past four years has just been this white noise by some incessant babbling school girl with a crush," the brunette pressed her lips together, "And it's not like I'm the only one! I'm just one girl out of plenty. Might as well stamp a number on me. Put it right next to the big 'L' on my forehead, because I'm bottom of the barrel, baby -"
"Piper Bell, I hear you talk that way again and we gonna have a serious problem," Shane warned. He hated to hear Piper talk badly about herself, "Look, Eric Summers'll see you in that dress a' yours and he won't know what hit him. Guarantee it, Pipe," Shane paused, looking for a reaction from the girl that sat next to him. When he caught the hint of a smile, the one that showed her dimples and creased the corners of her eyes, he continued, "And if he don't go wild over ya, lemme tell you something, he's an idiot and you can just say 'to hell' with him. You hear me, Pipe? He ain't worth anything a' yours if he's too stupid to see what's right there in front of him," the car was silent for a moment as Piper considered her friend's words. Then, Shane began again, "Tell you what. When is this thing? Friday?" he looked at Piper, who nodded in confirmation, “I'll skip Frank's, be your date."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure! Guys won't miss me too much - since there'll be no one to beat their asses at pool. I'll take you to your prom and you'll be havin' so much fun you'll forget about ol' Eric," Shane assured his friend, his voice full of enthusiasm.
Piper couldn't help but smile. She nodded her head slowly, "Alright, alright," she told her friend, "It's a date."
"An' with me, you'll have the best night ever. Promise you that."
"Yeah," Piper responded as she absentmindedly examined her French manicure, wondering how long it would take for them to fall off at the barn the next day. Shane had come through for her, and she was looking forward to the night he had promised, but she wasn't filled with the over-the-top excitement that Jennifer was about the event. It seemed to Piper that prom night would be just like any other night with her friend. And, if he hadn't offered to take her and hadn't thrown around the words "best night ever", paired with a goofy sideways grin and sincere brown eyes, Piper would have, in the end, opted for a quiet night at the barn.
Jennifer, on the other hand would not have missed prom for anything.
If things had worked out differently, in Piper's favor, though, the brunette would have offered her cousin more energy. But, as it was, and as Piper chided herself, she wasn't in fantasy land. She was living real life and there wasn't a boy to sweep her off her feet on prom night. At least, the boy she had wanted to do the sweeping had made other plans and Shane Walsh didn't own a broom.
Jennifer waved off Piper's lack of enthusiasm and switched gears, "So," the blonde turned, much to her stylist's apparent frustration, and gave Piper a pointed look, "You and Shane Walsh. Will we finally see some sparks tonight?" Jennifer couldn't help the mischievous grin that played on her face.
Piper huffed and rolled her eyes. She'd known Shane Walsh for eighteen years. Courtesy of Evelyn Walsh and Laura Bell, former college roommates, Piper had grown up with Shane. And, while their mothers, who brought Shane and Piper together during catch up coffee dates or holidays would jokingly refer to a toddler-aged Piper as Shane's "little girlfriend" due to the girl's fascination and tendency to follow the older child around, Piper had never seriously believed a relationship with Shane would become a reality.
She appreciated Shane, holding him in high regard. She thought of him as her dearest friend. And, like Rick Grimes, who came into their lives when Piper was ten, she had witnessed his ups and downs and had been there for him as best she could. In return, Shane had been a steadfast friend to her as well. The rapport Shane and Piper had established was enough for Piper, but, as it was, the thought of romanticizing their relationship had occasionally crossed her mind; an intimate relationship, one beyond their deeply rooted friendship. She'd seen it in the movies; one guy, one girl, a friendship turned romance.
But Piper's life didn't mirror the cinema. And, when she stepped into her teenage years, growing not just physically, but mentally, Piper wondered if the boat would be rocked. She wondered if teenage hormones would step in, if she would catch Shane's eye. She wondered if she wanted to catch Shane's eye. Things remained ever-normal between the friends, though and the silly thoughts were wiped from Piper's brain.
"Jennifer," Piper began, holding an index finger up, "The only sparks you will see tonight are those which come from Kathy Jones' Christmas tree of a dress."
The joke about their classmate's over-the-top dress went ignored and Jennifer crossed her arms. Her eyes locked with Piper's and she raised her brows. When it came to who was the better man for Piper, Eric Summers had little on Shane Walsh. And, while she'd been happy to help her cousin, after all, Piper's happiness mattered; it was Shane who Jennifer had always pictured Piper ending up with. But she knew that the subject of Shane and Piper and their eventual, as she saw it, relationship was one that neither parties had shown much interest in discussing. In fact, the topic was one that was avoided or dismissed immediately by Piper, and Jennifer had all together stopped asking Shane when he was going to get a move on and take her cousin on a proper date. The answer was always the same from the man; something along the lines of "it's not like that, JJ" with a request to drop it tacked on at the end. Piper and Shane's lack of enthusiasm, however, stop Jennifer from bringing their relationship, or lack thereof, up whenever the opportunity arose.
Besides that, it was prom. A few slow dances and Jennifer had no doubt that Shane and Piper would stop being so dense. At least she hoped, or Shane and Piper would be the death of her.
"Piper," she started, mocking her cousin's earlier tone, which earned an eye roll, "You cannot possibly think that you'll come out of this the same. You and Shane? Formal wear? Slow music, dimmed lights. It's the perfect storm!"
"Jen-" Piper began.
"And if you two don't get together tonight I'm handcuffing you to one another and playing Marvin Gaye," Jennifer concluded, hoping that her words were enough to make Piper think.
Piper's lips parted and her brow furrowed, "Please don't," there was a beat, "And please, let's just, er, let's just not. Talk, I mean. About Shane..... and me.....and anything involving us being soul mates or whatever you're always going on about."
"Fine," Jennifer huffed and slumped in her seat.
Piper had won the battle, but she was not going to win the war.
The brunette smiled at her cousin as silence fell between them. The salon was far from quiet and Piper could hear the chattering of the girls that occupied the seats around them, excitement laced in their words.
As she listened to talk of prom dresses and post-prom plans the teenager couldn't help the twinge of anticipation that she felt.
Four hours. The best night ever.
The dress that Piper wore and admired in the full-length mirror that sat in the corner of her bedroom had cost more than what her parents would have been willing to pay, but the brunette had been smart. Her job as a cashier at King County Cafe paid for the gown and, for a year, a fourth of her bi-monthly salary, including tips, had been stored in a jar labeled "PROM". Having not been prepared financially to go to her junior prom, Piper had given herself an ample amount of time to acquire the reserve for senior year. All funds in the jar had been set to go toward the initial tickets for the event, a dress, shoes, makeup, nails, and hair and, thanks to careful planning, she had kept to her budget, with a couple of bucks to spare.
Piper smiled at her reflection and she smoothed the long skirt of the chiffon dress she'd selected. Dress shopping had been a 1-2-6 deal for Piper. Many of her classmates had spent more than one afternoon in dressing rooms at the Macon Mall, and some, like Jennifer, even drove to Atlanta on more than one occasion, expanding their search. Piper had accompanied Jennifer on one of her trips to the city. And, unlike Jennifer, who scoured the racks, finding something wrong with each dress she tried on, it hadn't taken Piper long at all to pick her dress. With a "check list" in mind, the third dress she inspected on the rack fit her criteria and, much to Piper's delight, it was in her size.
The one shoulder navy dress, with its cluster of beads and sequins atop the shoulder piece accented Piper's blue eyes, brightening them drastically. The long tiered skirt of the piece flowed elegantly, ending just above the floor.
The dress, however, was only a part of the package. The well-tipped beautician at the salon had expertly styled Piper's normally ponytailed brunette locks into an elegant chiffon bun. Fly aways were not to be seen, but Piper was sure, after an hour of dancing, she'd switch her sophisticated 'do for a ponytail. Piper's makeup, done by Jennifer was natural; her lips were glossed over in a shade that was nearly identical to her natural lip color. She wore foundation, covering up any imperfections. Her eye shadow, a matte shade of champagne had been dusted over her lids with the help of her mother. To complete the "look", Piper had borrowed a pair of hoop earrings from Laura.
"Piper!" Laura Bell's voice called from the foot of the stairs.
Piper turned her attention away from her reflection, toward the doorway of her room, "Yeah Mom?" she hollered back.
"Shane's here!" Laura sounded from the lower level, "And your father wants to take some pictures before you go!"
Piper smiled and rolled her eyes. Her dad, with his ridiculous jokes and his dorky persona, she couldn't believe he had been the Casanova of the Bell brothers, "I'm coming!" she backed away from her mirror and turned to her desk. There, she grabbed her over-stuffed clutch, or her "emergency kit", as Jennifer had called the bag. Taking one last look at her reflection, Piper figured she was as ready as she was ever going to be. The girl opened her bedroom door, ready to smile until her jaw hurt.
The best night ever. That was what Shane had promised, and, as per usual, her dearest friend had come through.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story! This was originally posted on Fanfiction over a year ago, but, since then, I've decided to dissect it and completely rewrite it. I thought I'd put it up on this site to see if it would pique any interest from the TWDFF community on here. A couple mandatory notes before we get started: 1. I do not own any of the characters with the exception of Piper Bell and related associates - as well as equine furbabies. 2. To make things clear, all text written within two '|||'s denotes a flashback. Italics are for thoughts! 3. To make things even clearer, yes, from the episode "Better Angels" onward the adventures of Piper & Shane will be AU. Both will be written (somehow) into further seasons. Also, please do not expect rushed updates. I really want to take my time with this!