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The Darkest Storm

Snarls, Growls, and Howls

Right now, it’s silent as stone.

The slight fog hovered above the ground, causing the rays of morning sunlight that began to rise shine through with sharp streams. As the light began breaking up the fog and emitting bits and pieces of the Georgian woods, footprints of a lone hunter were also less hidden.

He watched her, as she stayed crouched among the forest floor, concealed by a clump of bushes and shifting her weight as she scanned the situation in front of her. He had gone after her there, curious to seek adventure with someone that always seemed to have it following her around.

Inside the woods though, he had to be careful. Walkers still roamed freely and there were added concerns like venomous snakes, rabid animals, swamp death traps that could sink your feet in and get trapped for days, and on top of it all, no real paths to get him back to camp if there was danger – he had to stay close, she knew how to get back.

About twenty yards away stood a buck much like the one he saw before, completely in bliss as it scavenged what it could from beneath the twigs and leaves covering the ground. Now, he got what he came for.

The wide smile took over his pale face, seeing her balance herself on her feet for one more moment before making her back completely straight and raising her bow in front of her. The boy grabbed his father’s hat and moved it slightly on his forehead, revealing a line of dirt and dried sweat from his life-changing event a few days before.

He wanted to get closer, he had to get closer. Taking a few steps, he kept his eye on both figures and anxiously waited for Darcy to release her bow and take down the large animal. A sudden snap of the twig underneath his feet shut everything down in a manner of seconds.

As the sound hit Darcy’s ears she instantly ignored the target in front of her and swung around on her heels, aiming the bow at the young boy surprised to see no threat behind her. The deer, however, didn’t stay around for much longer and bolted off quickly behind them.

Carl raised his hands, “I’m sorry.” He panicked, knowing fully it was his fault. He knew he shouldn’t have even followed her out in the woods in the first place – he had been disobeying his parents every chance he got, refusing to let them keep him cooped up in that house any longer.

Darcy’s heart was racing, first thinking the worst was behind her but instead the threat was actually that of one of her friend’s son. She sighed, lowering her bow and putting the arrow back in her quiver.

“It’s alright.” She mumbled, looking back over her shoulder, wondering if it was worth trying to track the buck. Carl thought the same.

“Are-are you going to go after it?” He pointed.

Darcy shook her head and pushed her hair back away from her face. “Not today.” She turned around, still seeing the panicked look on the boy’s face, and now disappointment.

Darcy motioned with her head, “C’mon. Let’s head back.” She walked towards Carl, stepping over the muddy bits of swamp as she did. Darcy was still wary since her and Glenn’s experience with it a few days earlier.

As Darcy stepped in front of Carl, he spoke up. “You won’t tell my parents will you?”

Darcy turned around, eyeing the boy carefully. “What would I tell them?”

Carl looked nervously back to where the deer used to be and to Darcy again, “About how I followed you into the woods? How-how I scared the deer away?”

Darcy faced Carl and shifted her weight on one leg, “I think there are more important things to be worrying about Carl.”

Carl nodded, “Thanks.”

“Just…be careful. No more sneaking around.” Darcy smiled slightly, outstretching her hand and nodding with her head, “C’mon. Before your mom even realizes you are gone.”

Carl nodded, letting the woman lead him back to camp in the earlier hours of the morning. As they emerged from the woods Darcy began to remember just how relentless the Georgia sun was in such premature hours of the day.

The two walked side by side, seeing their camp huddled around a small fire, smelling the fumes of a breakfast waiting for them to return. Darcy patted Carl’s back, motioning him over to his parents before walking over to her tent. She took off her bow and quiver and tossed it somewhat carelessly onto her sleeping bag, scanning the group back over by the fire.

It had been an awkward couple of days, especially for Darcy. There is no way to explain it correctly because her mind was whirling around into even the darkest corners; assuming the worst possible situations between her and the rest of the group.

Did everyone think of her differently now? Were people giving her glares behind her back? Was Daryl going to pull back and avoid her? Or was he expecting something more?

Darcy knew fully well that her mind was playing tricks on her. No one seemed to notice the change in her attitude; she kept more quiet and distant but not too much to cause worry. It had helped her that she always stayed quiet unless she felt that it was absolutely necessary to state her opinion. On top of it all, it seemed like the argument with Andrea was simply ignored and swept under the rug.

But in Darcy’s eyes, it felt like since that night her whole world had finally began to crash down on her. She had let something happen that she tried so desperately to avoid and she didn’t know what this meant for tomorrow. Darcy knew she would just have to hope and pray everything would go back to normal and all was forgotten because at that point, she didn’t know what she wanted.

It wasn’t until she approached the fire with a set of familiar eyes lingering on her that told her everything was going to be okay.

Grabbing a small helping of scrambled eggs, she walked over to Daryl who sat in a lawn chair and sat herself down on the ground beside him, receiving the same comforting nod that was the key to their communication: it’s forgotten, spur of the moment…but if it happens again, I wouldn’t stop it.

Darcy gave a slight smile and set down her eggs next to her, hiding her blush and relieved expression as she took a swig of the warm water out of the bottle. Glenn saw this and quickly approached.

“Hey are you done with those?” He said nervously, picking up her clearly unfinished plate and walking away towards Lori.

Darcy watched, “…No…?” Giving a raised eye glance at Daryl who simply shrugged. They both watched more, seeing Glenn scrape the few remaining bites on a much larger helping and served it to Lori, who in return, gave a stern glare.

Darcy wasn’t an idiot, and this wasn’t the first sign she saw. “Are you fucking kidding me?” She whispered, eyes not leaving the sights of the woman.

“What?” Daryl asked, looking back and forth between the two before taking one last bite and handing the rest of his plate to Darcy.

She took it thankfully, still holding her eyes on Lori. “Nothing.” Darcy ignored it.

“Din’ catch nothin’ then, huh?” The husky country voice brought her out of her thoughts.

She shook her head. “Carl followed me, didn’t give me a chance to.”

“Hey um- guys?” Glenn spoke up, grabbing the attention of the entire group. The nervous tone never seemed to go away.

He hesitated, clapping his hands together and looking towards Dale for support. “The uh- the barn’s full of walkers.”

It takes awhile for the group to completely comprehend what Glenn was telling them. Immediate frightened stares were on Glenn, daring him to say another word. Darcy doesn’t know how long it has been until Rick finally stands up, and without hesitation, marches towards the barn.

Darcy immediately follows him, hearing the shifting and heavy footsteps of the rest of the group not too far behind her. When they reach the barn, it is still quiet among the group until Shane steps forward, peering inside the sliver of wood held together by lock and chains on the door of the barn.

Darcy doesn’t watch, but she can hear the snarls, growls, and howls of walkers inside. The twist in her gut says they have been unsafe and feet away from danger this whole time. She can feel the others react the same way, growing restless and taking a few steps back.

It wasn’t until the door lurched forward at Shane that everyone starts to panic.

Shane marched back towards Rick slightly bumping his shoulder. “Man, you cannot tell me you’re alright with this.” His voice was a low growl, forcing the last few words as to try and hold him from losing any cool he had left. Ever since he had returned from the schoolyard without Otis, his walk has been slightly hunched, almost as if he was ready to lunge at anything and anyone if felt threatened.

“No I’m not but we’re guests here, this isn’t our land.” Rick had the same tone, but more forceful trying to tell everyone how it really was.

“God this is our lives!” Shane threw off his hat.

“Lower your voice!” Glenn shot back.

Andrea tossed her head back in aggravation with Rick’s answer and crossed her arms; “We can’t just sweep this under the rug.”

“It ain’t right. Not remotely.” T-Dog spoke.

“Okay, we’ve either got to go in there, we’ve got to make things right or we’ve just got to go.” Shane paced. “Now we have been talking about Fort Benning for a long time.”

“We can’t go!” Rick put out a hand.

“Why, Rick? Why?” Shane asked.

“Because my daughter’s still out there.” Carol stepped forward.

“Okay.” Shane gave a weak laugh, covering his mouth and shifting his weight. “Okay, I think it’s time that we all start to just…consider the other possibility.”

“Shane!” Rick yelled. “We’re not leaving Sophia behind.”

Daryl stepped forward, “I’m close to findin’ this girl I just found ‘er damn doll two days ago!”

“You found her doll, Daryl. That’s what you did. You found a doll.” Shane laughed again, not able to comprehend how he was the only one knowing the true state of Sophia.

Daryl lashed out, “Man, you don’ know the hell you’re talkin’ about!”

“Now wait I’m just saying what needs to be said here – you get a good lead, it’s in the first 48 hours –“ Shane ranted, turning towards the group and ignoring the desperate cries of Rick to stop.

“Shane, stop!”

“Let me tell you something else, man -” Shane turned back towards Daryl and took a step forward. Rick was between the two men and Darcy was prepared to try to hold Daryl back if necessary, even though she knew it might not do any good. “-If she was alive and she saw you comin’ all methed out with your buck knife, geek ears round your neck she would run in the other direction, man!”

Daryl lunged, jumping over Rick’s arms and trying to get ahold of Shane in some way. Darcy instinctively dove forward, putting herself between Daryl and Rick and pushing on his chest to back him away from the officer. It was a commotion, everyone yelling and fighting off, trying to tear both men away from each other. It was when Daryl realized Darcy was in front of him that he let her push him away, but not before sending a threatening glare towards Shane.

“Back off!” Rick yelled.

Shane scoffed, “Yeah that’s right Daryl, have your woman pull you away like the little bitch you are.”

Daryl shouted back and marched forward again, “I ain’t nobody’s bitch, ya fuckin’ pussy!”

Lori grabbed Shane’s shirt too with Rick again in the middle, “Boy I’ll beat your ass! You don’t come at me boy!”

“Enough!” Rick yelled.

“STOP!” Darcy shoved Daryl with all her might, getting a pretty good grip on his shirt and pushing him back a few steps. She whipped around, eyes fuming “Shane you need to get your shit together, this isn’t your call, this is not your decision to make.”

Rick put an arm out to Darcy; afraid she might make and advance on Shane as well. “Now just let me talk to Hershel. Let me figure it out.”

Shane panicked again, “Man, what’ve you got to figure out!”

“Enough!” Lori pushed Shane back again.

“If we’re gonna stay, if we’re gonna clear this barn, I have to talk him into it.” Rick pointed again towards the barn, “This is his land!”

“Hershel sees those things in there as people—sick people—his wife, his stepson.” Dale approached Rick.

“You knew?” Rick asked, shocked more than just Glenn knew and didn’t decide to say something earlier.

“Yesterday, I talked to Hershel.”

“And you waited the night?” Shane snapped.

Dale turned, “I thought we could survive one more night. We did.” He faced Rick again, “I was waiting till this morning to say something but Glenn wanted to be the one.”

“The man is crazy, Rick, if Hershel thinks those things are alive or no!” The final yell of Shane had the bolts and wooden doors of the barn moving, being pushed forward with strength that was unfamiliar to the group and they quickly backed up, watching carefully and ready to run if anything came through.

“Let’s go!” Rick called, hastily walking away from the barn and back to camp with the group not far behind whatsoever.

“We need our guns, Rick.” Shane called.

“No.” He shook his head, “I can work this out.”

“And what if you can’t? If Hershel thinks there’s a cure and he’s just hiding them in there…that’s his family, he isn’t going to let us walk in there and slaughter them.” Andrea spoke up as the group reached the fire pit, eggs burning in the pan and smoke emitting from the fire from unattended cooking.

Rick rubbed his face, “We will. We have to figure this out, this is the first time we’ve been safe in awhile…”

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it safe.” Darcy mumbled, crossing her arms and looking at the ground to avoid attention being brought on her.

“I can work this out.” Rick repeated, nodding his head and walking towards the white house without another word.

Darcy rubbed her face as she sighed heavily. She then looked up and pushed her hair back while putting a hand on her hip before deciding to walk off towards the horse barn. She wanted to be alone and she didn’t want to deal with the insecurity Shane clouded over the camp.

As if on cue, the group dispersed. Darcy saw Shane march himself over to the barn, most likely going to rescan the chains and make sure it was safe. It was then Darcy suddenly missed her two pistols, and she realized how empty her side holsters where as they clicked against her thighs. It was growing inside her the anxiety and realization that maybe they weren’t safe here, and maybe it was true that Sophia was long gone.

It ached her, admitting it to herself that the possibility of Carol’s daughter was dead. But it was something that she would eventually have to accept with the rest of the group. Darcy held it in the back of her mind that she knew Shane was right, she just couldn’t say it out loud. What ate at her more was the conversation she had with Carol that nobody knew about. Carol had high doubts now, and wasn’t exactly certain Sophia would be found. Darcy promised not to say anything, especially to Daryl, who has put his life on the line too many times to count to bring the little girl back.

When Darcy reached the stalls, she leaned against the empty one across from Nelly. Darcy unbuckled her holster, wondering why she even carried it around and threw it to the ground. The weight was unfamiliar now.

“Ya comin’ with me or what?” A voice echoed through the barn, and Darcy turned, surprised to see Daryl struggling to carry a saddle in his arms.

“What?” She asked, watching him toss the saddle over the bench and then bend over as he winced in pain. “Are you serious?” Darcy crossed her arms. “You can’t go out there again.”

“I’m fine.” Daryl walked over to Nelly and opened her stall.

“You bitched about me all the time when my arm was in stitches and now you’re in even worse condition and you’re not even going to listen to your own advice?” Darcy raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I don’t care.”

Darcy shifted her weight uncomfortably. “Well, I do. Rick’s going out later – can’t you just wait to go with the others?”

“I ain’t gonna sit around ‘n do nothin’.”

“If you go by yourself you’re gonna get hurt again, Daryl. Don’t be stupid.”

Daryl turned around, “Tha’s why I’m askin’ ya to come with me.” Daryl played with the reigns in his hands before turning back around and looping them over Nelly’s head. “Don’ know why that’s such a problem with you.”

“We don’t know if we’re gonna find her, Daryl.” Darcy mumbled, ashamed to look at anything but the ground.

She heard his feet shift and face her, taking a few steps forward hesitantly before she gathered up some strength and looked back up at him. “What?” He whispered. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“We don’t.” She shrugged. “I don’t.”

“I ain’t doin’ this for you, Darcy.” He shook his head, narrowing his eyes in a mocking way and lowering his voice to a growl.

Darcy crossed her arms, regretting what she was about to tell him. “Carol doesn’t either, Daryl. She said so this morning.” She let out a deep breath. “We can’t lose you too.”

Daryl locked eyes with Darcy, taking a step back and behaving as if he didn’t know if he should say something or if he should just continue with the search. In frustration, he walked past her, bumping her shoulder slightly all the while not taking his eyes off of hers. Grabbing hold of the saddle, he threw it as far as he could, but it didn’t last long. The pain in his side shocked him, making him bend over and wince from the ache.

Darcy walked over, grabbing his left arm to try and hoist him up but he pushed her away. “Keep your hands off me!” He yelled, walking away as if defeated. “Stupid bitch.”

Darcy watched as Daryl left, hearing the last bit of words he had saved. She shook her head, knowing she shouldn’t have said anything but on the other hand, knew if she hadn’t he would’ve wound up getting hurt or worse all over again. So she ignored his comments, knowing that he was frustrated and felt defeated, like there was no hope in finding this little girl. It had run out as if completely.

Darcy leaned against the empty stall door in a sulk, sliding her back down and sitting in the loose hay of the barn floor. If she could help it, she would never leave and instead bury herself in the soft straw and lay still until this chaos was all over.

Notes

Readers - thanks for being so patient, I've never had so much on my plate at once as I've had in the past few months. I love writing this story and I have every intention of going to the end - don't give up!

Let me know what you think - makes me write faster ;)

Jane

Comments

Please update this is such an amazing story and I'm dying to know what happens next!!!

Ash8 Ash8
1/22/19

@LoriG
Part 66 is up ;)

@aphishinthec
Argh you got my hopes up- I saw an update, but it was you replying to my last messaege! Please can you update @bikingthroughflowers ? Thank you!

LoriG LoriG
6/25/18

@LoriG Right?!?! Need to know how she would handle Negan.

I'm also desperate to know how Darcy would fare in the storyline now. Pleeeeeease don't give up on this fic, I'm reading it AGAIN! <3<3<3

aphishinthec aphishinthec
4/6/18

I’d love to know how Darcy would deal with Negan... you need to update surely?! Still love this story, and just read it again!

LoriG LoriG
7/31/17