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The Darkest Storm

Broken

She breathed and watched.

The warm air grabbed the shredded curtains of the small shattered glass window of the shed, pulling the dark fabric out of the gap and ballooned it out to a roundness that shaped itself to the wind. Then it slipped back inside through the sharp edges, getting caught on the edge of the dusty chalice. Her heartbeat was fast, as if she had ran miles without stopping.

Darcy picked at her uneven fingernails, standing with her weight heavy on one leg as she eyed up the old worn structure. She turned toward the entrance and peered through a small opening where she saw Daryl standing tall over Randall huddled into a pathetic crumpled heap on the ground. As her thoughts clicked quickly to one another, she proceeded to reach out with a wary hand and unlatch the rusty lock.

The undertake Rick so mercifully planned out to leave the boy 18 miles out from the farm was a bust, resulting in an almost fatal attack by not only walkers, but by his once best friend. No one knew, not even Lori, what exactly happened between Rick and Shane.

The two officers said nothing as their boots stomped against the hard ground with nothing but faces of being battered, bruised, and a glum expression when they returned late the previous evening to the farm. They tossed Randall back into the shed at Daryl’s hand and locked the door to keep him at bay.

After a few minutes with just Daryl in by himself, he came out and told them Randall was determining to keep quiet in the subtlest way. Between the two, Rick nodded and whispered, “Do whatever needs to be done.”

Rick rubbed his face with one hand and turned, of course, to Darcy, ready to ask an expectant request. Daryl had walked paces away, and Darcy raised her eyebrow when Rick looked to her, “Maybe it’s best if you go on in after Daryl –a familiar face could help Randall calm down and give us some answers.”

Darcy glanced over her shoulder towards the shed, knowing Daryl was already inside when she heard the threatening slam of the door. In a hushed but confident tone she answered, “You and I both know that’s not going to make a difference.”

The sight quieted her.

Randall was beaten, that much was certain. His right eye was swollen, cut, just like the knuckles on Daryl’s hands that were beginning to drip with the crimson liquid. Randall was weak, exhausted. He breathed heavily as he awaited another fist in his jaw.

Darcy closed the door behind her, her instant presence stopping Daryl in his pacing tracks and locking eyes. She didn’t say anything when she entered, but gave a quick nod and adverted her gaze when Daryl’s eyes searched her for an answer. He walked the floorboards a few steps over to her not in a threatening way, yet protective.

The old wood creaked and his sweat stuck his hair to his forehead. They kept each other in their sights for a long time as Darcy made her way to the corner of the room, dangling her feet over the strands of hay as she sat on an old farm table. She half expected him to force her out of the room.

Randall also let his eyes fall on the familiar woman, blinking quickly and wondering if for an instant she was going to stop his torment. “You’re the one who sat next to me in the truck.” He coughed out, managing a small smile of relief.

Daryl looked between the two, revving himself back up and lowering his voice in a deep gruff, “She ain’t here to save ya, if that’s what ya hopin’ for.”

Darcy’s fingertips clawed the overhang of the wooden bench she sat on, clenching her eyes closed and wincing every time the boy she and the others had rescued was beaten by Daryl’s own hands. He continued to pace, getting himself worked up again and to the point where he could do what needed to be done. He demanded answers.

Randall fell to his side, hands still tied behind his back, “I told you-“

“You told me shit!” Daryl leaned forward; grabbing Randall’s collar and sitting him back up again. He was slumped with no energy left to fight back.

“I barely knew those guys. I met ‘em on the road.” Randall whimpered.

“How many in your group?” Daryl asked.

Randall squinted, looking to Darcy for rescue but she would be no part of it. Daryl looked behind him to her, and he watched as her eyes quickly flickered to the knife he carried on his side. Daryl slid it out slowly in this grasp.

Randall watched, eyes wide. “Uh, no no no no no, come on man!”

Daryl leaped, slamming the knife between Randall’s knees into the floorboards and leaning close up to his face, “How many!”

“Uh, thirty. Thirty! Thirty guys.” Randall tried to scoot back into the wall further, and Darcy watched as the horror in his eyes became more obvious.

“Where?” Daryl ripped the bandage off of the fresh wound on Randall’s leg, getting a loud cry and a wave of panic.

“I don’t know!” Randall screamed. “I swear! We were never anyplace more than a night!”
Daryl placed the tip of the blade against the stitches. “Scoutin’? Plannin’ on stayin’ local?”

“I-I don’t know. They-they left me behind! Ask her she was there!” Randall nodded his head towards Darcy.

“I ain’t talkin’ to her, boy, I’m talking to you!” Daryl spat. “Did you ever pick off a scab?”
“Come on man! I’m tryin’ to cooperate.” Randall squirmed.

“Start real slow at first, sooner or later you just gotta rip it off.”

“Uh-uh okay! Okay!” Randall breathed out slowly, stammering as he began to answer. “They have weapons. Heavy stuff. Automatics. But-but I didn’t do anything!”

“Your boys shot at my boys, her–“ Daryl nodded back to Darcy, “ - tried to take this farm. You just went along for the ride? You’re tryin’ to tell me you’re innocent?”

“YES!” Randall screamed. “These-these people took me in. Not just guys- a whole group of ‘em.” Daryl stood up, listening closely. “Men and women. Kids too, just like you people. Thought I’d have a better chance with them, you know?”

Darcy kept her head down, listening to the continuing pace of Daryl back and forth. She thought Randall was done, until the tone of his voice changed and he hesitated answering further. Darcy hesitantly brought up her head, and she watched Randall twitch where he sat, the tension and confidentiality of the story he was about to tell was weight heavily on his shoulders.

“But-but we go out. Scavenge, just the men.” He swallowed. “One night we-we found this little campsite. A man and his two daughters-teenagers you know? Real young…real cute.”

The tone of his voice was sickening. Darcy’s breath hitched itself in her throat, feeling the lingering eyes of not Daryl, but Randall as the last word rolled off his tongue like thick poison, taunting her. Daryl turned slowly, looking to Randall first then following his gaze to Darcy in the corner. Their eyes met. His blood boiled.

“Their daddy had to watch while these guys – they – “ Randall shook his head, and Darcy saw the face he put on in that instant. As if he didn’t care, his mind flashed to that night, reminiscing of the sight regardless if he was part of it or not. Suddenly he spoke up again sounding unusually cheerful. “And they didn’ even kill him afterwards. They just – they just made him watch while his, his daughters – they just – just left him there.”

Darcy’s mind went into overdrive, breaking down every scrap of information, every tone, every word that Randall managed to spill out. It was something about the kid that didn’t make sense.

Daryl shifted on his feet. “No, but – but I didn’t touch those girls. Nah, I swear.”

A yelp emitted from Randall’s mouth as Daryl kicked in his bad shin. Randall’s words were stammering as he pleaded for mercy. Darcy couldn’t stay there any longer and left to open the door just a creak to let a stream of sunlight inside the darkened shed.

“Please, you-you gotta believe me. I ain’t like that.”

Daryl stared the boy down before he caught a glimpse of the light out of the corner of his eye. Darcy stared back at him, not being able to look him in the eye because of how uncomfortable the story Randall told them made her. She didn’t trust him, nor feel sorry for the boy. As far as Daryl could read, Darcy wanted him far away from her and the camp, regardless of if he was dead or alive.

Darcy left the shed after hearing more yelps and screams from the battered kid inside. Leaning her back up against the door, she wondered if Rick would end up doing what needed to be done. It was simple: this stranger couldn’t be trusted, not after what he told them, not after what he’d seen.

The white morning fog had disappeared over the farm again. It was dry but cool, like normal Georgia Fall days, but the nights were growing colder which meant winter was started to approach quickly.

Darcy took a few steps forward to make her way towards the campgrounds where the rest of the group awaited her and Daryl’s return. She didn’t stop to turn around when she heard the familiar creek of the doorway open behind her with Daryl stepping out with his crossbow thrown over his shoulder and a hint of an animalistic nature in his posture.

He watched her as they walked in the same pace, slow and in thought. He didn’t catch up to her or even bother to address what happened.He could only imagine the way Randall had looked to her in that moment how uneasy it had made her. Daryl kept his eyes on her the entire way up when they caught sight of their group.

Rick and the others stood up when Darcy came back first, “What’d you find out?”

Darcy squinted up at him, hesitant, and she put her hands in her back pockets. With a hurried look, Darcy glanced back over her shoulder and saw that Daryl had finally caught up to her.

Daryl spoke over her, “Boy there’s got a gang, thirty men. They have heavy artillery and they ain’t lookin’ to make friends.” Daryl faced Rick but spoke to everyone. “They roll through here, our boys are dead. And our women, they’re gonna-“ He unnoticeably looked to Darcy as she avoided his gaze, “They’re gonna wish they were.”

“What did you do?” Carol asked, noticing the gashes on his hands.

Daryl looked down to them and dropped his hand to wave it off, “Had a little chat.”

Rick spoke up, determination in his voice and control, “No one goes near this guy.”

Lori approached silently to her husband, but everyone else could hear, “Rick, what are you gonna do?”

“We have no choice. He’s a threat.” He looked to the group, “We have to eliminate the threat.”

“You’re just gonna kill him?” Dale stepped forward; a disgusted look clouded his face.
Rick gritted his teeth and avoided the elder man, “It’s settled. I’ll do it today.”

Darcy listened to the sound of scattering footsteps from every person in the group, even Daryl. His presence lingered for a mere moment as he stood by her side, but was quickly gone soon after.

In regards to Randall, Darcy didn’t even bother or feel the need to argue about his fate. Daryl’s instincts were right; Darcy had processed it all in her head and figured a clean slate and a new beginning was the best thing for this group. Meaning: a dead prisoner, a threat long gone.

Darcy turned, feeling the cool breeze against her cheek and zipped up her fitted black leather jacket. She peered over her shoulder back towards the house and watched as Daryl continued to saunter somewhere where he could be alone for the time being. Like Daryl’s, her hair seemed to grow darker as the season changed.

Alone. Even in this time, in this type of world, Darcy missed having a moment or two to herself. It reminded her of a simpler time, of having privacy, and she suddenly reminisced in the idea of having even a short time to gather her thoughts and escape this living nightmare that could only be described as a horror film come to life.

Darcy took a quick breath in, and drew in the scent of the fresh grass in the fields and even the rotten water from the surrounding marsh. It was then Darcy noticed what a quiet and beautiful day it was, regardless of what happened only moments ago.

Darcy approached the RV and saw that it was empty. She only saw people inside during the later times of the evening anyways. She tried to picture this old thing in its prime. The recessed lights in the ceiling would illuminate the hall with a weak golden light, the floor held of what was left of a burgundy carpet patterned in white and gold. She moved towards the back room, where human bodies had slept, and dreamed. She found that knowledge very comfortable that this was once a peaceful place. But as it was, the world was not as it used to be. Darcy grabbed a book, and ran outside.

Darcy leaned her back against a tree close to the house, yet still in seclusion from the others. She had wrapped herself loosely in a thick blanket, enjoying it’s warm on a rare cool day. She found herself enraptured in a book she’d never heard of, maybe it was because for once in a long awhile she was forced to re-enter her imagination.

Feeling the breeze once again on her porcelain cheek, a scent filled her nose that seemed familiar to her. Hearing the slow heavy footsteps only confirmed that someone was approaching. They stood, slightly more hunched over than any other member in the group, undoubtedly due to his old age, and sighed.

“Yes, Dale?” Darcy held her fingertips on the matted pages of the book from flying and loosing her place in the wind.

He sighed, “Rick’s giving me some time to talk to the group.”

“About Randall.” It was a statement, not a question. Darcy tossed her head slightly to get her hair out of her face and looked up at him finally. She seemed un-phased that he wanted to talk about saving the boy’s life.

“Are you with him on this?” Dale furrowed his brow.

“I’m not against him.” Darcy folded the corner of the page to save her place. “I want him gone, Dale. So if that means he’s dead or another 18 miles out-“

Dale shook his head and waved a hand towards her, “You of all people should understand what I’m trying to say.”

Darcy narrowed her eyes in confusion, “How’s that?”

Dale spoke with his hands, “You were the last one to join us, and you became a part of us-“

“I didn’t try to shoot you– I tried to leave.” Darcy scoffed.

“But you didn’t.” Dale pointed, a glint in his eye.

Darcy shook her head, “This is different.”

“It’s no different.” Dale crouched down to be at her level. “We’re losing ourselves if we let this happen! The world we knew will be dead-“

“The world’s already dead – look around you, look where we are.” Darcy slammed the book shut.

“I just don’t get it – you are usually standing up for what’s right, what’s the obvious choice. Is this because of-of Daryl’s influence?”

“This has nothing to do with Daryl.” Darcy stood up and frustratingly folded up the blanket in her hands. “This is my choice, and mine alone. Let me make that perfectly clear.”

Dale stood up with her and raised his arms, “Then what is it?” She turned her back to him as she tossed the blanket onto the ground along with her book. “Darcy-“

Darcy whirled around and glared harshly at Dale. “That ‘kid’ looked at me dead in the eye and told the story of how he stood by while his buddies raped two innocent teenagers.” Dale looked taken aback, blinking a few times and looking off into the grass as if to re-think things over.

“His voice was cold, careless, almost as if he enjoyed the memory. So don’t you dare stand there and defend that prisoner when you don’t even know the other half of the story. I know you’re trying to do what is right, Dale, but you are dead wrong on this. Dead wrong.” Darcy finished.

“But the solution isn’t to kill him!” Dale stepped forward, “There are other ways, so that we-we don’t lose ourselves, who we are-“

Darcy shook her head and mockingly smiled at Dale, “You weren’t there, Dale. That night at the bar. I had to kill to defend myself and not against walkers, but against people. His group. And do you know what I felt after? It wasn’t destruction, weakness, incomprehensiveness, it was safety. I felt safe after they were dead.”

Darcy picked up her things and with one last look towards Dale who had the look of shock and bafflement covering his features, and said, “I will only feel safe again when he is dead too.”

-

“Did it hurt to punch the guy?”

Carl came around the thick bush and approach Daryl who sat on an old wooden log out by the farmhouse. He sat to be alone, think things over, to just have his own moment. Although, he purposefully positioned himself to be able to easily see Darcy off by a somewhat distant tree reading. It was a weird feeling of peace.

Daryl glanced up at the small pale boy, “Been hurt worse. You too buddy.”

Carl smiled, feeling enjoyment of being compared to the hunter. “Can you teach me to shoot that?” He pointed to the crossbow.

Daryl scoffed, “You’re arm ain’t long enough.” He picked at his nails.

“Yeah it is.” Carl brought out his arm, as if measuring it himself against the length of the bow. Daryl just huffed a small laugh.

To his right, Daryl heard the crunching of the grass beneath approaching footsteps and he turned blinking a few times to make sure it was actually Darcy coming towards him.
He stood up, pushing on the bow as he did and turned back to Carl, “Why don’ you find your ol’ man 'n pester him?”

Daryl watched Carl reluctantly turn around and vanish behind the bushes as Darcy stood in front of him, “Here.” She handed him a cloth and an antibiotic to clean his wounds.

Daryl took it slowly, enjoying the feeling of warmth from her touch. “Thanks.” He sat back down on the log and opened the bottle.

“When you’re done,” Daryl flickered his eyes up to the woman, sensing she felt tense yet awkward from the way she shuffled her feet. “I’m looking to get out of here for awhile, hunt. I would feel better if you came along with me.”

“Ya alright?” It was a simple question, but held many meanings.

Darcy sighed and sat down beside him, “Haven’t used my bow in awhile, worried if something came up I might lose it.” She smiled slightly.

“You mean if his buddies show.” Daryl nodded his head towards the shed.
Darcy shrugged, “Kinda.”

“Rick will handle it.” Daryl began to wrap his knuckles and Darcy watched carefully.

“Even with Dale runnin’ his mouth ‘bout saving the damn kid.”

“He talked to you too, then?” Darcy asked, grabbing the cloth from him and un-wrapping it to do it over. He flinched, just as he always did, but let her care to him nonetheless.

“He’s talkin’ to everybody.” He looked at her eyes that focused on his hand. “That why you wanna get off this farm?”

“Just for awhile.” Darcy tied the knot and wiped her hands on her jeans.

“Don’ feel safe?” He asked.

She stood, “Never do.” Darcy shuffled on her feet once more and blushed, “Would feel a lot better if you came back to camp.”

Daryl looked to her, and they both poorly hid their small smiles. “Yeah well,” he stood once more, close to her this time. “Wouldn’t make a difference. Everybody bugs me o’er there anyways.”

Darcy rolled her eyes, “Are you coming with me or not?” She bluntly asked, turning slightly as if she was ready to leave him behind again.

Daryl barely nodded, “Yeah, could use some practice. Gotta stop by my tent first – get some arrows.”

They walked together.

The strides they took were in-sync, slow, yet excited. There wasn’t a time when the two could really remember the last time they went out by themselves. With all that’s happened the past few weeks, it wasn’t a surprise either.

Darcy chewed on her lip, but whether it was from excitement or anxiousness, she couldn’t tell. They each slowly meandered across the grass, Daryl scuffing his shoes against the ground as they walked, still, it was as natural as ever. It was like all the arguments and unexpected occurrences between the two had never even happened.

“Ya didn’t tell Dale you were with ‘im on this, right?” Daryl asked, catching glimpses of Darcy out of the corner of his eye as he searched his bag for his newly crafted arrows.

Her eyes narrowed, looking at him in confusion as he grabbed a handful of arrows and set them in his bow. “Why would I?”

“Jus’ wonderin’.” He shrugged innocently, taking a step over a small wooden pile and walking towards the woods. He slowed his pace so Darcy could keep up with his long strides.

In the woods, Darcy has finally felt like she can relax and be herself. She guards herself still, obviously from the true threat that waits behind almost every corner, but yet in a different perspective, she doesn’t. She can feel the muscles in her face relaxing with every step inside the forest, her pace quickening as she finds some rocks to climb until she stumbles a ledge overlooking a small opening.

Daryl watches her, not taking his sight off how she drifts through the twigs and leaves lying amongst the floor and barely makes a sound. Never did he think this would be permanent, having another talented partner in the woods with him such as she, but he enjoyed her presence. He blinks shyly.

Darcy whistles quietly, and Daryl snaps from his thoughts and truly focuses on her instead of getting lost in his own mind. She is crouched, pointing to just the left of him where he sees a few squirrels hurried about. It’s nothing big, but it’s food nonetheless.
He turns to her, motioning his head for her to take the shot. She stands, and with every movement his eyes watch her. Daryl has decided to trust her wholeheartedly with this catch, and it’s not difficult for him to do so. He knows she can easily make the shot.

Daryl pays close attention to her movements. She places her feet carefully and blocks out the rest of the world as she takes meticulous aim. Her arm pulls back, revealing her strength in her arms and shoulders. Her stance is perfect. The sound of the arrow hits its target with ease.

“Practice my ass.” Daryl mumbles, walking over to the squirrel pinned perfectly in the eye to the tree and pulling it out with a grunt before lifting his own bow and shooting at a wandering scurrier nearby.

Darcy slips out of the bushes and crosses over to him, she can’t help to avoid the question on the tip of her tongue any longer, “Did you mean it?”

Daryl stands up straight, not having the faintest idea of what she was referring to and scrunched up his face, “Mean what?”

If she’d thought about it longer, Darcy would have bitten her tongue before she had a chance to blurt such a stupid question but she needed to know so badly that her mind couldn’t think of anything else. They were alone, and now was the time to ask.

Her eyes flickered uncertainly to his face, “How it meant nothing.” Darcy had never been able to address these types of situations without feeling incredibly embarrassed and foolish, but like I said, she had to know.

“How the kiss meant nothing.” Darcy turned her back on Daryl and kept her head facing the ground, hands on her hips and tapping the left toe of her boot with her right heel as she awaited the answer she most likely knew to be anyways.

Daryl blinked and narrowed his eyes at the woman, but not in a threatening or angered way. He was confused – obviously what he said in their last argument hurt her – and was wondering what she was expected him to say or rather, really wanted him to tell her. He wanted to, so desperately to tell her ‘No, it was all a lie, I just didn’t like how I allowed you to get so close so quickly.’ But, at the same time, was it smart of him to do that?

Suddenly, Daryl felt the eyes and influence of his brother somewhere around them. He could feel Merle’s judgment, pity, and relentless harassment of the unlikeliness of how a beautiful woman such as Darcy could possibly want anything to do with him.

Back in the day, it would be Merle to shoot down his younger brother’s confidence and swoop in for himself at Daryl’s interest. Thinking about it though, Daryl smirked wildly at how Darcy would have nothing to do with someone like Merle. Daryl genuinely felt that Darcy cared about him instead.

A rustle behind Daryl made both hunters turn in uncertainty and grip their bows a little tighter. It was the all too familiar growl emitting from behind the brush that forced them to hid behind to trees that stood next to each other.

Darcy pressed her back as far as it could go into the hard bark as her heartbeat increased rather quickly. She looked to Daryl beside her, and even though they were in danger from whatever was lurking through the woods close to them, she couldn’t help but love this feeling of company and excitement that she used to feel when she first joined the group.

That all quickly changed though as the limping body had come around the tree and grabbed the collar of Darcy’s jacket. She let out a yelp, falling to the ground and bringing her hands up to the chest of the monster, trying to push it off or at least keep its gnashing teeth at bay.

Daryl tackled it, rolling to the side but ending up in the same position he had just saved Darcy from. In a quick haste, Darcy stood up, hair falling in her face and pushed the walker off of him then, kneeling on its chest to keep it pressed against the cold forest floor and taking her knife to stab it’s blade into the top if it’s skull.

Gurgling emitted from what was left of the rotten lips. Darcy pulled the knife out in a tug and pushed the body away from her. She leaned back and sat down on the ground, breathing heavily from the close encounter. Resting didn’t last long when she was pulled to her feet and spun around, Daryl looking over every inch of her body to see if she was bit.

“Ya bit? Scratched?” He asked, grabbing her shoulders and pushing her hair aside to see where the walker first grabbed her.

She couldn’t help but let out a laugh, “No, no would you stop?” She spun herself back around and lightly pushed his hands away. “Stop, stop, stop, stop it! Quit grabbing at me, I’m fine.”

She stepped back and they both breathed heavily. Darcy lifted her hands to rest on her hips and look at the decayed body next to her. She pushed the hair out of her face that fell from her braid in the rustle and turned back to Daryl.

“Good thing there was only one.” She knelt down to wipe the blade on what used to be young man’s torn, brown, button-up shirt.

Suddenly another rustle came from behind them and Darcy rolled her eyes and looked to Daryl who did the same. They didn’t hide this time; they didn’t try to avoid it. They both aimed their weapons at the sight of branches moving and the sound of twigs snapping as the body grew closer and closer…

“Carl?” Darcy lowered her bow. The boy was covered in mud, out of breath, and had a terrifying expression covered his pale face.

“Darcy?” Carl ran over to her, hugging her mid-section with such a force it had almost knocked her over. She looked up to Daryl who eyed him carefully and brought his gaze up to meet hers. Daryl shook his head in annoyance.

“What are you doing out – you know what? I don’t want to know.” Darcy mumbled.
Daryl passed her, a sour expression on his features. “Let’s head back. Group should be gettin’ ready to meet up now.”

Darcy had suddenly realized how dark it actually was. The sun was just beginning to set and it let a golden-red hue cover the sky and the familiar night fog was starting to settle in.

Daryl led the way a few paces in front of them with the few squirrels they had managed to find hanging by a string behind his back. Carl stayed very close to Darcy, hanging onto her belt loops on her black skinny jeans. She felt the boy’s large brown eyes staring, knowing what they were pleading.

She sighed, “No, Carl, I won’t say anything to your parents, but I swear to God, it’s like you’re trying to get yourself killed.”

Carl huffed loudly and tore away from her, “I can handle myself!”

“Really? ‘S that why you came runnin’ out of them woods and held on to Darcy for dear life?” Daryl shot back as he approached the farmhouse.

Darcy looked up and saw the group beginning to gather for the meeting about Randall. Lori hadn’t seemed to even notice her son was missing which was beginning to annoy Darcy greatly. For the time being however, she ignored it and climbed the stairs to join the others in the foyer area.

The group huddled in a large circle, Dale somewhat by himself on the left side and Rick in the center. Darcy listened to her footsteps against the wooden floors as she stood against the opposite wall of Daryl. She crossed her arms and her ankles as she waited for the discussion to begin.

It was silent for a few moments, before a quiet Glenn spoke up, “So how do we do this? Just take a vote?”

“Does it have to be unanimous?” Andrea asked.

Lori voiced herself from the corner next to Daryl, “How about majority rules?”

Rick stepped forward and placed a hand on the couch, “Well, let’s-let’s just see where everybody stands, then we can talk through the options.”

“Well, where I sit,” Shane spoke, “There’s only one way to move forward.”

“Killing him?” Dale spat. “Right? I mean why even bother to take a vote? It’s clear which way the wind’s blowing.” He sighed, defeated.

Rick raised a hand, “Well, if people believe we should spare him, I wanna know.”

“Well, I can tell you it’s a small group.” Dale shifted his weight. “Maybe just me and Glenn.”

As the name slipped from Dale’s mouth, Glenn lowered his head in silence. He didn’t say or look at Dale when the elder man glanced at him for support. The slow motion when Glenn did face him, however, said it all.

“Look, I-I think you’re pretty much right about everything, all the time but this-“

“They’ve got you scared!” Dale retorted, cutting Glenn off.

“He’s not one of us!” Glenn said. “And we’ve…we’ve lost too many people already.”

Dale looked around the room for any sign of mercy. “How about you? Do you agree with this?” He asked Maggie.

She crossed her arms and looked to Rick, “Couldn’t we continue keeping him prisoner?”

Daryl leaned against the wall, “Just another mouth to feed.”

“It may be a lean winter.” Hershel spoke.

“We could ration better.” Lori told him.

“Or he could be an asset!” Dale raised his voice. “Give him a chance to prove himself.”

“All the while we’re keeping an eye on our backs in case of another threat.” Darcy mumbled.

“We could put him to work?” Glenn suggested.

Rick shook his head, “We’re not letting him walk around.”

“We could put an escort on him.” Maggie said.

Shane scoffed, “Who wants to volunteer for that duty?”

“I will.” Dale spat.

Rick raised another hand, “I don’t think any of us should be walking around with this guy.”’

“He’s right.” Lori said, “I wouldn’t feel safe unless he was tied up.”

“We can’t exactly put chains around his ankles and sentence him to hard labor.” Andrea said.

“Look, say we let him join us, right?” Shane stood up from leaning on the fireplace mantle, “Maybe he’s helpful, maybe he’s nice. We let our guard down and maybe he runs off, and brings back his thirty men.”

Daryl breathed in uncomfortably, imagining if they did find the farm and unintentionally looked to Darcy. She lifted her head up as well towards him but quickly adverted the stare.

“So the answer is to kill him to prevent a crime that he may never even attempt?” Dale said. “If we do this, we’re saying there is no hope. Rule of law is dead, there is no civilization!”

“Oh my God.” Shane looked away.

“Could you drive him further out?” Hershel asked. “Leave him like you planned?”

“You barely came back this time.” Lori swallowed. “There are walkers, you could break down, you could get lost-“

“Or get ambushed.” Daryl spoke.

“They’re right.” Glenn sat up, “We should not put our own people at risk.”

“We’re running out of options.” Darcy mumbled. “You don’t want us to kill him, but we don’t want to risk the chance of letting him loose or letting him join us.”

Rick nodded, “She’s right. We’re bouncing all over the place.”

“If you go through with it,” Patricia started, “How would you do it? Would he suffer?”

Shane shrugged and looked to Rick, “We could hang him, right? Just snap his neck.”

“Nah, I thought about that. Shooting him may be more humane.” Rick nodded.

T-Dog shifted his weight and crossed his arms, “And what about the body? Do we bury it-“

Dale stepped forward shaking his arms, “Well hold on, hold on! You’re talking about this like it’s already been decided.”

“You’ve been talkin’ all day, goin’ around in circles.” Daryl spoke quietly in his gruff voice. “You just wanna go around in circles again?”

“This is a young man’s life! And it is worth more than a five-minute conversation!” Dale shouted. “Is this what’s its come to? We kill someone because we can’t decide what else to do with him? You saved him!” He pointed at Rick, “And now look at us. He’s been tortured. He’s gonna be executed. How are we any better than those people that we’re so afraid of?”

“We all know what needs to be done.” Shane lowered his voice.

“No, Dale is right.” Rick said, “We can’t leave any stone unturned here. We have a responsibility-”

“So what’s the other solution?” Andrea started. “We haven’t come up with a single viable option yet, I wish we could but-“

“So let’s work on it!” Dale yelled.

“Stop it!” Carol cried. “Just stop it. I’m sick of everybody arguing and fighting. I didn’t ask for this, you can’t ask us to decide something like this. Please decide – either of you, both of you- but leave me out.”

Dale pointed at her, “Not speaking up, or killing him yourself,” He shook his head, “There’s no difference!”

“Alright, that’s enough.” Rick raised a hand to him. “If anyone wants the floor before we make a final decision has the chance.”

The group fell silent, avoiding Dale’s piercing stare as he looked to each member of the group. Darcy had even brought her eyes to the floor and had become preoccupied with an ant carrying a pea on it’s back trying to make an escape for the front door.

Dale’s hands twisted his fisherman’s hat desperately, “You once said that, that we don’t kill the living.” He pointed to Rick.

“That was before the living tried to kill us.” Rick sneered.

“But don’t you see? If we do this, the people that we were - the world that we knew is dead! And this new world is ugly. It’s…harsh. It’s-it’s survival of the fittest! And that’s a world I don’t wanna live in, and I don’t believe that any of you do. I can’t.”

Darcy brought her head up and saw the water beginning to glaze Dale’s eyes, “Please. Let’s just do what’s right.” He stopped and looked to the group once again. “Isn’t there anybody else who’s gonna stand with me?”

After a few moments, Andrea spoke. “He’s right. We should try to find another way.”

“Anybody else?” Rick asked.

“Darcy?” Dale put her on the spot, opening his arms wide as if she was about to agree with him. He truly thought of her as a wise counsel, Dale, of all people. He sought her out depending on her to agree with him. To an extent, she did. But her gut instinct screamed ‘no.’

Darcy sighed quietly, feeling the lingering eyes of the entire group, especially Daryl’s. She didn’t say anything, but merely shook her head. Dale’s first tear fell against his cheek. Rick turned back from the unresponsive woman and shrugged at the elder man.

Dale sobbed, and scoffed at his group, “Are you all gonna watch too?” He sniffed. “No you’ll all be hiding in your tents trying to forget that we’re slaughtering a human being.” He shook his head and started towards the door. “I won’t be a party to it.”
With a callous look, he stopped and placed a hand on Daryl’s shoulder. “This group is broken.”

-

The more Darcy blinked into the darkness, the more she began to make out the familiar silhouettes of Daryl, Rick, and Shane talking on the other side of the camp. She sat, her features only being lighted by the flickering embers of the fire in front of her.

Darcy rubbed her tired eyes and tried to sort out her mental bearings. Forty-eight hours ago, at least, she’d been fighting for her life along Rick, Hershel, and Glenn, escaping the midst’s of strangers and walkers alike to end up saving a kid who was in the heart of the attack. Now, the same kid awaited his deadly fate because the group just couldn’t trust him enough to let him go.

Darcy sighed, utterly exhausted. Her shoulders sagging as she glanced down at the long stick she lazily held in her hands that poked the slow-growing embers. She peered her eyes over the dying fire that she was supposed to tend to and paid close attention to the members of the group.

Darcy pursed her lips and frowned. It was true; Dale had suspected each and every one of them would pretend they weren’t “slaughtering a human being.” Everyone was quiet, as if trying to push the thoughts and angst of the idea out of their minds.

T-Dog sighed from his seat beside her, which made Carol look up from her tea. Andrea, whose arrival till that point had gone unnoticed, spoke with uncertainty in her voice as she stepped forward, “Has anyone seen Dale?”

Darcy shook her head slowly, unblinking from staring at the flames. “I think he went for a walk.”

The silence of the night fell across the group once again. Darcy’s heart bad begun to race beneath her leather jacket. Rick and the two men started to disperse, Daryl catching Darcy’s curious eyes and nodding to her that it was being taken care of – he walked over to her anyways though, setting his crossbow to lean against her chair and facing the shed behind her.

He hadn’t said anything, nor did he need to. Darcy lowered her head and looked to her feet as to catch Daryl’s movements out of the corner of her eye. Rick motioned for him and Shane, and as soon as Daryl began to move his feet, he looked down to Darcy.

Unnoticeable to anyone else but them, he lightly grabbed the leather material of her jacket in between his thumb and forefinger to give it a gentle tug as to reassure her. Darcy turned her head that she still kept lowered slightly towards him, but his feet began to move away to help with the deed. She felt the familiar heat rise to her cheeks and towards the spot where his fingers touched her. Darcy let out a slow breath, resting her chin on her right shoulder as she once again tried to catch his movements as he walked away. A smile tugged on the corner of her lips.

-

Darcy felt a wave of anxious nausea sweep over her.

How much time had passed? Surely Rick should have done it by now? Darcy had been listening intently, closing her eyes and blocking out any other noises other than what could be considered a gunshot, but no such sound reached her ears. Was something wrong? Did Rick change his mind and decide to drive Randall out further instead to benefit Dale?

“Something’s not right.” Glenn spoke in the silence.

Then, Shane was stomping back to camp with the same animalistic growl on his features. He stormed off, avoiding everyone around him. Darcy sat upright and placed her hands on the arms of her chair trying to find an explanation to Shane’s sour behavior. It was then she saw Carl, being led by a steady guiding hand that was his father’s. Once again, Carl had followed them.

That damn kid. Darcy sat back in a sulk and shook her head.

Rick addressed the demanding eyes of the group, “We’re keeping him in custody for now.”

“I’m gonna find Dale.” Andrea smiled.

And then, all at once, it happened. The gut-wrenching screams of one of their own flooded the fields. Darcy leaped to her feet as did the others. Beside her, T-Dog’s breathing came quick and fast in time with Darcy’s pulse. She could hear the screams and roars erupting from the meadow, but could see nothing. It was when Daryl’s calls were mixed with Dale’s that people sprung into action.

“T-Dog, get a shotgun now!” Rick called.

Darcy grabbed her pistols and a flashlight, sprinting along side the others in a desperate attempt to save him. Panic-driven yells and fear-stricken hearts caused them all to run faster than they ever had.

“Help! Over here!” Daryl yelled, jumping to his feet and waving his arms to grab the group’s attention.

They all caught up at once. The confirmation that it was Dale and the sight of his ripped stomach had Darcy clutching at her stomach and bent over double to wretch.

Rick kneels down over Dale when he saw his mangled state. He tries his best to stay calm, “Listen to me, all right? Just listen to me.” Dale moans in response as he is unable to form words.

“Okay, hold on now. Get Hershel!” Rick yells back to the group. But they are all in shock and no one responds. It was then that Hershel and his daughters entered the unforgiving scene.

“What happened?” He asks, out of breath.

“What can we do?” Rick asks. “Can we move him?”

Hershel puts a hesitant hand on Rick, “He won’t make the trip.”

Rick stands and shouts in misunderstanding, “You have to do the operation here. Glenn get back to the house!”

“Rick.” Hershel shakes his head. Now Rick knows. Rick screams in protest, and the cries of the group become louder. No one comforts anyone, but stands and stares at their literally torn friend who continues to moan and wince on the ground.

“He’s suffering.” Andrea says. Rick knows what has to happen. “Do something!”

Darcy had turned around, hands on her hips and her head in a defeated sulk. A warm familiar hand wraps hesitantly around her midsection facing the other way towards Dale, and like that one night the camp was attacked outside of Atlanta, Darcy let her body fall into Daryl’s and he embraced her.

Rick raises his gun at Dale’s forehead, staring on and waiting as if he’ll recover and everything would be back to the way things were. Moments have passed and soon Daryl lets go of Darcy and walks over to him.

Daryl puts his hand out for Rick to give him the gun. Kneeling down, he whispers “Sorry brother,” and pulls the trigger.

Notes

Alright, so that was a bit of a marathon of a chapter - thought you folks might enjoy it. Remember comments make the world go 'round :)

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