A/N: Sorry about the wait, I've been busy. Anyway, here's the next chapter ^^
Disclaimer: The Walking Dead and its characters belong to AMC/Robert Kirkman. Lana Fitzpatrick and Sheriff are my own fan characters and belong to me.
By lunchtime Carol's sickness seemed to have mostly gone away. She was still a little queasy, but she was feeling well enough to go about her normal routine without too much trouble. A loud bang sounded as she pushed another old whiteboard up against the thick iron gates surrounding the school.
Reinforcement of the fences still had a long way to go, but for now they seemed to have enough resources to at least make a start on the project. Whiteboards were among the most useful object to use for the job because of their size and sturdiness. Unused desks and chairs had been pushed against the fence as well, but were hardly strong enough to be used as permanent reinforcements.
Carol took a step back to admire her handiwork, a line of whiteboards stretching a good 10 metres along the perimeter. It wasn't much compared to the length of the entire fence, but for all the effort dragging the damn things out here with Sasha's help and pushing them into position one by one, it wasn't too bad a job.
She reached a hand up to her forehead to wipe away the accumulating sweat. The heat was hell today, with not a cloud in the sky and the sun beating down intensely. You could see the heat wavering through the thick humid air, dancing dizzyingly up from the horizon.
Carol turned away from the fence to see Daryl quickly making his way over. She stood with her hand shielding her eyes from the bright rays, the other placed on her hip as she awaited his approach.
"We're about to head out, we'll be back soon. Sure ya don't wanna come?" he said, slinging his crossbow strap over his shoulder.
"Someone has to take care of things around here. Besides, it'll be easier with a smaller group" she replied.
She stepped closer to him, until their chests were touching, their faces so close they were almost breathing the same air. She wrapped her arms around his waist and planted a light kiss on his lips.
He breathed a small sigh.
"Come on Daryl!"
He rolled his eyes as the loud voice interrupted their moment, Carol breathing a laugh before she pulled away to let him go. She peered around him to the source of the yell.
"He's coming Lana" she called, then turned back to Daryl. "You better hurry, sounds like someones getting impatient"
"Don't see why, its hell out there. Why does she wanna come so bad?" Daryl asked, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"She just wants to help out"
"She can help out here" he grumbled.
"Daryl, she's sixteen. I know you're worried, I am too, but she's old enough to handle herself out there. She did it before she found us. Except then, she didn't have you to keep her safe"
Carol wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in for another kiss, then let him go so he could join Lana where she was waiting, slouched against the doorframe. The pair headed in to grab their gear, before heading out the front entrance to meet up with the rest of the group. Maggie and Tara were already waiting inside their truck, while Glenn hung out the door, waiting for them to catch up. Michonne leaned against the side of the dusty vehicle with her arms folded across her chest. A sheriff's hat popped up from behind the trailer as they got closer.
"This it?" Daryl asked.
"Yeah, just us. We tried keeping it as small as we could, but these two insisted on coming as well" Michonne said, gesturing with her head towards Lana, as well as Carl who had suddenly appeared beside her.
"So where exactly are we headed?"
"Its a small town a few miles from here, there didn't seem to be many walkers down there when me and Michonne came across it last time" Glenn replied. "A couple of the stores looked nearly untouched, we thought we could bring back some new clothes, maybe some other supplies if we get lucky"
Daryl nodded, before stepping up to the trailer of the truck and swinging himself unto the back. Even though he lost his bike back at the prison, he still liked the feeling of the wind rushing past as they travelled. Plus there wasn't that much room in the front so somebody had to.
He was greeted by a bark as he noticed the shepherd mix, clad in a police dog vest, laying on the other side of the trailer. Daryl reached over and gave Sheriff a rough scratch behind the ear as Lana and Carl both clambered in after him. Michonne swung herself up last. The engine started with a rumble, spluttering a little before it started its steady hum. The gravel crunched under the tyres as it reversed, before Glenn shifted the gears and drove down the driveway to the gate, where Sasha was waiting to let them out.
The town was eerily empty, with only a few walkers wandering around in the distance. The buildings were in a state of decay. Paint peeling off of walls to reveal crumbling brick underneath, rubbish and debris blowing across the streets like a tumbleweed in an old western movie. The only sound was the sound of shoes scraping across the asphalt as they walked together towards the department store. It was nearly too quiet.
Daryl was constantly on alert, occasionally tossing a glance over his shoulder should a threat present itself. He nearly jumped as Lana grabbed his lower arm.
"Are you okay?"
The look on her face was of genuine concern. He must have looked really on edge.
"Yeah, 'm fine. Just keeping an eye out" he said as he unhitched his crossbow from his shoulder, deciding instead to carry it in front of him.
Lana nodded, returning her gaze in front of her and settling her hand by her pistol. When they reached the door, Glenn cupped his hands to his eyes and peered into the grime covered window.
"I can't see anything from here. It looks empty" he said, turning back to the group.
Daryl pushed to the front of the group and took a look for himself, straining his eyes to see through the darkness inside.
"Looks clear enough, but we better keep a look out for walkers" he said, gripping the dented door handle and gently turning it. A bell dinged as they entered, causing Daryl to wince at the sound. They all stood stock still in the doorway, waiting for any sign that there was a walker present in the store. Silence. With that, the group filed in.
They all went their separate ways once inside. Lana and Carl headed over to the kid's section, Maggie, Tara and Michonne towards the women's section. Daryl and Glenn wandered around until they reached the menswear, occasionally stopping to grab anything else they thought would come in handy.
Daryl grabbed a bunch of shirts and pants, making sure to find sizes that would cater to the rest of their group back at the school. There wasn't much that was particularly intriguing to him, it wasn't exactly his style of dress, but he did find a couple good pairs of pants that Carol would probably be thankful he grabbed. She was always trying to steal his pants away to patch them up, but he didn't let her. He honestly didn't mind, and they would just get holes in them again anyway. No point wasting time trying to fix them up.
Once his pack was nearly full, he decided to roam around and see if there was anything else useful to find in the store. As he passed by the women's section, a bright crimson shirt caught his eye. The fabric was pulled together in loose ruffles, the neckline wide with sleeves that fell off the shoulder. He reached out a hand to touch the fabric, grabbing it lightly between his fingers. Red was Carol's favourite colour. He slid the shirt off its hanger and neatly folded it, before placing it into his bag delicately.
"Hey Daryl, check this out" Glenn called softly from the other side of the room. He was standing by a closed metal door with the word 'STORAGE' printed across it in bold. He twisted the metal door knob and pulled, only to find it locked. Glenn let out a frustrated breath.
"Do you think we could get this open? There's probably heaps of stuff in there we could use" he asked, folding his arms.
Daryl looked at the door as he assessed his options. He tried the handle for himself, while leaning against the door with his shoulder and pushing against it incase it was just stuck. The thing didn't budge. It was definitely locked. Daryl huffed, took a few steps back and put his hands on his hips. He looked over his shoulder, blue eyes scanning rest of the store. They needed something to pry the door open, like a crowbar, but why would there be a crowbar in here? A nearby clothing rack caught his eye. He hurried over, ripping shirts and clothes hangers from the rack before yanking one of the arms off the main part of the stand. The black metal pole could nearly pass for an actual crowbar.
"This do?" he asked Glenn, holding up the pole in front of him.
Glenn moved aside as Daryl stepped up to the door, wedging the metal bar between the door and the frame and using it as a lever. With a crack, the door gave way, swinging open quickly from the force of the lever. Glenn wore a smile of victory as the open door revealed a large room packed with shelves full of boxes, clothes, and shoes, as well as trolleys and an old scissor lift. Ladders on rails were fixed to the shelves so you could reach the higher up products. From the outside, the store didn't even seem big enough to have such a massive store room. It was almost like a warehouse, nearly bigger than the store itself.
"Sweet!" Glenn exclaimed, pulling out his torch.
He half jogged-half walked over to the first set of shelves, positioning his torch on top of one at face height, and started rummaging through the piles.
Daryl peered in, then whistled to catch the attention of the rest of the group. Sheriff bounded over to him from behind the counter, stopping at his feet and looking up happily. Lana and Carl quickly emerged from behind a pile of boxes, eyes attentive and by the look on their faces, confused as to what was going on.
As the pair approached him, joined by the three women, he gestured with his head to the dark room.
"Glenn found a storage room. We're gonna have a look around, see what we can find" he told them.
"I'll keep watch out here" Michonne said, turning and walking over to the register. She leaned her back against the counter, pressing her hands back against the edge behind her.
The rest of the group ventured into the storage room, separating into different isles but making sure to stick close by each other should danger present itself. Lana pulled a box out from a small pile and got to work unpacking wasn't much you couldn't find out in the main part of the store, nothing but clothes and shoes, with the odd accessory appearing every few boxes or so.
She let out a yelp when something scurried over her foot. Green eyes flashed down just in time to see a mangy looking rat scampering under one of the shelves. A sigh of relief escaped her mouth, as she loosened the tight grip she hadn't realised she held on her torch.
"Are you okay?" Carl asked as he rounded the corner into her isle.
Lana got up from her crouched position on the floor and wiped her dusty hands on her shorts.
"Yeah, just a rat. It caught me by surprise" she explained.
"Hey, I found something in one of those boxes over there, I thought you might like it" he said, reaching into his back pocket and pulling out a thin silver chain. From the chain dangled a silver owl pendant, with small green jewels for eyes.
Lana's eyes brightened at the sight of the necklace, a mesmerised look on her face as her eyes followed the swinging pendant.
"I mean, I knew you liked owls so…"
"Oh, its so pretty" she said as she reached out to touch the small hanging owl.
She stroked it delicately between her finger and thumb, as if afraid that a movement too rough would damage it.
"I love it, thank you" she said, her bright green eyes meeting his.
"Here" he said, undoing the clasp and moving behind her.
He lowered over her head and rested it on her chest, as he worked to re-fasten the clasp. Lana glanced down at the small silver charm hanging from her neck, her hand moving up to caress it under her fingers. She turned towards him, their faces mere inches apart. She smiled as she leaned in, before a low shout interrupted them from the next isle over.
"Hey Carl, I found some comics if you wanna have a look" Glenn called.
They both breathed a laugh, their breath mingling in the small space between them. Lana pulled back slightly.
"Go on, look at your comics. I'll just finish up with this box" she said, bending over to start shifting through its contents once again.
"We will continue this later" Carl said as he turned and headed over to where Glenn was calling from.
"Save some for me" Lana shouted after him as he disappeared around the corner.
A few minutes later, another low shout sounded from a few isles down in the opposite direction to Carl and Glenn.
"Hey, can someone give me a hand? This box is really heavy" Tara called.
Lana lifted herself from her spot on the ground and headed in Tara's direction. A few isles down she turned a corner only to come face to face with a decomposing figure, the skin of its half face shredded and decayed in a sickly shade of green with empty eyes sunken into its skull. Lana screamed but no sound came out, and the monster lunged at her. She nearly stumbled over her feet as she scrambled away from the walker.
"Help!" she screamed, finally able to speak.
She backed into a shelf, frantically trying to get away from the snarling, snapping teeth, fully exposed as the mouth had been ripped away. Behind her, she felt the structure start to give way, leaning with her force as she pushed against it. The walker was only inches away from grabbing her and sinking its black stained teeth into her flesh when an arrow shot through its head. The monster dropped into a crumpled heap at her feet, but the shelves behind her kept moving. The shelves smashed loudly into the concrete wall beside it, its contents spilling over the ground with a melody of bangs and crashes.
Lana was still breathing quickly and heavily, so shaken from the sudden chain of events that she didn't even notice Carl's arms wrapped around her. He pressed her into him, one hand on the back of her head and the other on her upper back.
"Jesus, Lana, you alright?" Daryl called, his face a mix of worry and fright as he hurried over to her.
It took her a moment to respond.
"Yeah, I'm alright, it didn't get me" she said, peeling out of Carl's grip.
A shout came from within the store.
"Daryl, there's walkers everywhere out there! They know we're in here" Michone yelled from the doorway.
The group broke into a run for the main part of the store, Daryl slipping out in front of the others. A large herd of walkers were pressed up against the doors, decomposing faces pressed against the glass as arms clawed at the doorway, trying to force their way in.
"'s there another way out?" he asked, fear creeping into his voice.
"Not that I can see" Michonne replied.
"We need to find another way out. Stay in pairs, we don't need another accident" he yelled, rushing back into the storage room.
The group split, looking for any way they could escape. A door, a window, anything. Daryl checked every inch, every corner of the storage room at least three times before cursing and running back out into the store.
"Anything?" he asked, his tone quickly becoming panicked.
"Nothing. I can't find anything" Maggie replied"
Glenn just shook his head.
"Damnit!" Daryl yelled, pounding a fist into a nearby wall.
The hammering on the door was louder, the growls and moans from the walkers outside slowly rising as more joined the herd. Although almost undetectable, a faint noise caught Daryl's attention.
The sound of cracking glass.