The Darkest Storm
Welcome to Atlanta
The radio’s static comes through. The noise catches her off-guard since her fellow officers normally don’t bother checking in when she wants them too. Latched onto her shoulder, she rests her thumb down on the receiver panel and leans her ear in closely.
“This is Shepherd. I’m on roof detail. Just heard a gunshot, maybe a mile North, Northeast.”
“Grab Lamson, take a car, and track it down.”
Dawn rubs her forehead as an uneasy feeling washes over her; she’s thinking maybe this isn’t such a good idea anymore. But she’s made such a big deal over this plan that she has no choice but to go through with it. Her decisions thus far have been shaky at best.
Sighing, she talks into the walkie. “Don’t let her out of your sight.”
Darcy waits anxiously for signs that she will be let out soon, but nothing pursues her. After several minutes, when she hears an exchange between Shepherd and Lamson outside her door, she becomes tense.
When they finally open the door, they find Darcy crossing her arms, standing across from them in the small room. Lamson steps in first, eyeing the girl carefully with a stern and bemused expression on his face. Her stance never wavers, she never gives off a sense of terror or frailty…she just waits for them patiently, like she was ready for a fight. She was always ready for a fight.
“Let’s get one thing straight.” He raises his brows and points down at the ground while he speaks to her, like he’s disciplining a child. “You run off, try anything –“ He steps threateningly forward, “Anything - and I will shoot you. Then you’ll end up right back here, exactly where you don’t want to be. Is that understood?”
Darcy gives a nod that resembles a weak bow. He drops his hand and looks towards Shepherd while nodding his head towards the woman on the other side of the room. Shepherd steps forward, revealing Darcy’s clothes that she wore when she first arrived at the hospital.
Ratty, and torn, still dirty to even the smallest stitch, she sets them on the bed along with Darcy’s boots. “You will be given no weapons, no supplies, nothing. The supplies we found you with will be returned to you once we have Noah.”
Darcy reaches for her clothes and runs her fingers along the fabric. Stains of blood still splattered among them and hold no particular pattern; only the memories alluded with them.
“We’ll drop you off a half-mile out from where we heard the shot. If Noah has already made it out of the perimeter, you’ll be the first to make contact.” Lamson continues. “You lure him back to the rendezvous point, we’ll take him in, you get to go freely.”
As Darcy makes no effort to give any sign of acknowledgement to the officer and what he’s told her, he clenches his jaw. “Is that understood?”
Darcy’s amber-hues flash to his, and he doesn’t wait for her to answer. “You have two minutes to get ready.”
Her hands are zip-tied behind her back once again. It pinches her skin as she tries to wriggle some room for her wrists to move more comfortably. The barrier in the traditional cop car separates her from the two officers up front, who still, stare at her through the mirror as if they are actively on duty.
The skyscrapers loom up above them as they drive through the barren city-streets. Nausea and inquietude creep into Darcy’s chest. She does not want to be here, of all places, no matter what the cause may be. She tries to collect herself before she’s thrown into what’s sure to be another relentless fight or flight situation.
In the silence that follows, the three hear another loud shot that echoes through the streets, deemed to be much, much closer than the last. The vehicle’s tires screech to a hault and Darcy almost falls completely into the seat in front of her as it does.
“Out, now!” Shepherd commands, pointing to the left of her as Lamson opens the driver’s door, and then Darcy’s.
He holds her by her upper arm forcefully as she’s thrown from the vehicle. He cuts the ties behind her back and gives her a forceful shove. As she turns back around to face them while rubbing her wrists, they’ve already shut the doors and have begun to speed off into the direction of which the shot was heard.
When they’re out of sight, Darcy breaks. She lets her eyes redden and become hazy, and brings in an imperatively loud and deep breath necessary for her to get herself to just calm down.
Outside, here while no one watches, she can let herself feel freely, as much as she doesn’t want to let herself. Her body breaks out in sweat as all the emotions from the past week come flooding back to her; her hands slide down her face, hastily wiping away any tears that may have escaped until letting them hang limply at her sides.
She suddenly feels naked without any of her weapons. The last thing she does before she takes off running is put her hand over her chest in a gesture that’s both self-protective and conciliatory for her own good.
One of the good things of being locked inside the city is that Darcy knew it; she knows the back-ways and short cuts and alleys with hidden doors. She knew one street lead to another and before she knows it, she’s kicked in the back door of a building nearby that used to serve as an old factory.
It’s austere; lackluster, and completely empty of anything formidable. There are some pieces of equipment left behind, and as she hops over quickly to gather herself at the window, she picks up a bent metal pipe that will simply just have to do for now.
In her return to the outside world after a weeks’ worth of rest, she breathes tiredly and her legs already ache from not being used in so long. In a feeble attempt, she rushes to the broken windows across the room and feels herself fall more harshly than she would like to admit with her back against the wall.
Her chest rises up and down, peering over her shoulder as it overlooks black asphalt with melted corpses who still try to reach out around them. She looks on in disgust, but hears instantly more shots being fired and yells from down the street. She realizes they must have been closer to whoever fired the shot than they thought.
But no, a black sleek car screeches and smokes, trampling the deceased that stick to the pavement. The wheels jam with bones and flesh, just as the doors open with none other than the two officers that just threw her out of the car no more than ten minutes ago, along with Licari, another officer who lets out a few rounds to whatever is advancing behind them.
Against her better judgment and with a deep growl that escapes from her throat, she pushes herself up and off the wall to follow them. She makes her way down the building the same way she came up and curves around the corner to overlook the scene once more.
It’s quiet as she calms her breathing. She hides herself behind a dumpster, twisting the metal pipe in her hands to get a feel for the grip. She sees, just in front of the scorched trailer, that Licari is wrestling a man to the ground.
Anger shoots through her at the sight, pained that this man may have to repay the same debt owed to Dawn as she did. That, in it’s absolute essence, could not happen.
Dammit. She thinks annoyingly to herself. I need to get my priorities straight.
She leaps up from her hiding spot and crouches low once Licari has his hand wrapped around the throat of the stranger. His back is turned to her, but she still works her way quietly over to them because any sudden movement that he notices of her will result in her being locked away forever.
With a small leap into the air, Darcy brings the pipe over Licari’s skull will all that’s left inside of her. Just as she expected, the pipe breaks and leaves an already bleeding slice on top of his head. He rolls over from the force, and is unconscious.
Along with him, Darcy falters to her knees just beside Licari’s body. She doesn’t take notice, or honestly, even care about the man next to her, how he scurries back on his hands and feet to help him stand, almost like he was afraid. She looks expectantly to the pipe in her hands, but scoffs as she throws it over her shoulder.
With her right hand she snags the gun out of Licari’s holster and swiftly stands. She points dauntingly at the man behind her; rugged and dirty, bloody and filthy. It covers every inch of him, even the nooks of his shoulders where his shirts are ripped off.
At first glance, she can’t tell the difference between any one person anymore; to be constantly on-guard was to not care at all. But him, she can see his face clearly, under the grime and mire.
She sees him, Daryl, standing there, completely broken. The azure-blue eyes stare sadly, with his mouth hung limply open, and ready to fall to his knees at any given moment at the sight of the figure in front of him.
He can see everything. He can see the cuts above her eyes, those breath-taking, amber eyes. He can see the bruises of torment and abuse through her survival along her arms and collarbone. His heartbeat quickens, and leaps up into his throat.
He takes a light step, trying to not make even the slightest movement that might startle her. The way she stares though, makes him put up his right hand to her in ease.
“Don’t.” Darcy tells him, pointing the gun once more. He can see her bottom lip quiver, her eyes becoming blurry and watered. He’s not sure if she believes he’s even real. And why shouldn’t she? It’s happened before.
Darcy takes a step back and covers the butt of the gun with her left hand for a more steady aim. She now points to the left, where she hears footsteps fast approaching, coming in her direction. She is only met with the shimmering silver barrel of a familiar colt-python.
“No, wait.” Daryl behind her still has his hands raised, this time towards his friend, his leader.
Rick eyes him carefully, before resting his stare back towards the person in front of him. He tilts his head casually, as if he’s over-thinking the situation, narrowing his gaze in just the slightest. But his eyes aren’t lying to him; it’s her.
With his pistol still pointed, the barrel slanted in his habits, he takes a wary step. “Darcy?” He asks, a veneer of delight and relief. Slowly but surely, the group which he called his family was coming back to him.
When her name is said out-loud, her heart springs. No, she wasn’t dreaming, this wasn’t another sick joke the world had decided to throw her into, no, it was all real.
Suddenly, the weight of the gun she holds feels heavy. As soon as she lets it drop to her side, she is engulfed in Daryl’s arms. Finally, the tears that threatened to fall at the brim of her lids meet her cheeks as she closes her eyes and grips the back of his shirt in her fists. Letting out a relieved sigh, she falls into him.
Darcy feels him tremble against her, not long before she feels the hotness of his breath in the nook of her neck. He buries his face into her hair, reaching up with his right hand to the back of her head and holding her in close.
She hears his small sniffles and whimpers by her ear, and it makes the tears flow even harder. Soon, she is lifted from her feet, arms wrapped even tighter around her small frame.
“’t’s you.” His voice cracks. “’s really you.”
A sharp sensation ripples throughout her body at the gruff voice. It’s so low and hesitant that it’s almost inaudible. She has her fingers lost in his hair, crying in disbelief that they were here, they were finally together again.
Once she is back on the ground, they step back while still holding tightly at each other’s sides. He lets her move his hair, which is much longer than she remembers, out of his face so she could see him clearly. The redness that forms around Daryl’s eyes stands out against the darkness of his skin. His face is lax, completely numb and appears saddened.
Their faces are wet from sweat and tears. Daryl pulls back and rests his forehead against hers, hands still entangled in her hair. He doesn’t pull away but instead takes a step into her, praying he will never have to go through this with her ever again.
When he finally gathers himself and knows for certain this isn’t a dream, he can’t wait any longer. Daryl pulls on her locks in a frenzy, leaning in and pulling her into his lips completely. The kiss is messy, desperate, and longing.
“Oh my God.” A voice breaks them. They turn, seeing now the rest of the group has found them. They stand, wide-eyed and mouths dropped, completely taken aback in a similar weight of stupor at the woman in front of them.
Darcy then brings her staggering attention to the footsteps marching on the pavement towards her. It’s Rick, he can’t wait any longer to welcome his friend. He reaches out his right hand up in her direction for an embrace, a smile etched on his features.
Daryl reluctantly lets him pull her away, wrapping both arms around her neck and hers around his middle. She feels him sigh shakily, his pulse slows and his shoulders drop. She wonders at what each and every one of them have had to go through to find each other.
“Thank God.” Rick says in her ear.
“Carl?” Darcy asks. “A-and Judy?”
He pulls back, continuing his wide smile and laughs. “They’re fine – safe.” He points. “Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, they’re all safe.”
Darcy wipes her face of what she can. “Beth.” She says. “Beth – she’s here. She’s –“
“We know.” Daryl tells her. He hasn’t torn away his stare yet. “Tha’s why we’re here.”
Rick looks at the man, “And Carol.”
Darcy blinks, “What? Carol? What happened to Carol?”
Rick points to her, “We’ll explain everything later. But right now, we gotta get these people inside. Figure out our next move.”
Darcy’s eyes advert to Licari’s still un-moving body on the ground. She senses Rick’s demeanor, a change from his previous farmer role. “For what?”
Rick looks to Daryl, then turns to the group behind him, as if he was confirming with each and every one of them before he spoke.
“We’re taking this place.”