Disclaimer – I don't own The Walking Dead Game or the characters used in this story, save a few that appear from time to time.
Quiet. Cold. The hallway had no life within it, just like the world surrounding it, and behind every door the growls of the dead can be heard softly. Footsteps echoed through the emptiness as Lee made his way through the darkness, eyes scanning the doors quickly and retreating once the growls warned him off.
Not this door.
Not that door.
Being seen off by the threat of the undead just behind the locked doors; he kept trying every one. Eventually, he was rewarded with one that was completely silent, save for the faint sounds of weeping that broke his heart. His mind jumped to the conclusion that the crying was Clementine, that she needed his help, and that was enough for him to open the door slowly; his gaze grazing over the entire room before he determined it safe. Entering with caution, body tense and ready to fight, he noticed that the door at the end of the room was locked by a rope, connecting it to the closet door and keeping whoever was in there prisoner.
“Clem?” His deep, gravelly voice called out. “Clementine? It's me, Lee.”
All was silent. The crying had stopped. The lack of a response made the hairs on the back of Lee's neck stand up, and his chest began to feel tight as he pushed himself to near the locked door. A hand stretched out to remove the rope, when all of a sudden the sound of a gun perked his ears and he froze completely, breaths dying in his throat as his mind began racing between fright and anger. Whoever was behind him, holding the gun to his head and threatening him, was the man who stole Clementine away from him.
Twisting the top half of his body around, his glare was met full-heartedly by a man looking the same age as Lee, if not slightly older going off the wrinkles and bags underneath his soulless eyes; though that can be contributed by the stress of getting through each day. Though this was not what was grabbing Lee's attention; the gun in his hand was what was grabbing it. They both stared at each other, almost daring one another to move or strike, though neither did so. Instead, the man simply smirked.
“I got us adjoining rooms.” His voice was chilled, and was almost non-human to listen to. It was like the world had sucked all of what made this man human and just left an empty shell; no emotions, no expressions, nothing. Glaring at the man with all the hate that he can muster, Lee didn't reply. Instead, he thought back to all that he sacrificed to get this far; all the people that he cared about gone... all because of him stealing Clementine away from them. This kept him going as the man pointed to the chairs facing one another. However, before any of them could move, a faint voice called out.
“Lee?” It sounded tired, almost as if the person couldn't stay awak much longer, and instantly Lee knew it was Clementine calling out to him. “Where are you? Are... you still there?”
The click of the gun killed the words he was going to say, and he could not say any more as the stranger put his finger to his lips, signalling to him to remain silent. Doing so, Lee was powerless as the man replied. “Be quiet, sweetie.”
The young child complied, and Lee couldn't help but think about how scared she must be, how tired and hungry as he didn't even know if the bastard in front of him even feeds her. With the silence once more filling them chilled air, the men trudged over and sat in the two chairs, the gun still threatening Lee to remain where he was and not to do anything that result in the stranger pulling the trigger and ending this conversation.
After only a few seconds of sitting there did the man finally speak. “Do you know who I am?”
What sort of question was that? Why should Lee care about who this person is or why he did what he's done? He's taken Clementine from him, resulting in them going after him and losing not only the boat, their only means of escaping Savannah, but Ben and Kenny. His glare heated as he sneered. “No. I don't know anything about you.”
“You wouldn't.” The stranger snapped, his voice sharp and filled with so much hate. “People like you don't.”
People like him? Lee was confused by what the man meant by that. There was things he had done that he was not proud of, but he could not recall anything that involved the person in front of him and explain the intense hatred. Not giving him the ability to reply and ask what he meant, the stranger carried on. “Now you're probably thinking 'Who would have it out for me?', huh? A few weeks back... there might have been a station wagon in the forest.”
The station wagon. Lee could perfectly recall the incident involving that station wagon and the abundance of supplies within; Kenny deciding that the group needed these supplies, to which Lee could agree that they did, and ended up taking them all. He remembered going along with it, against Clementine's wishes, and the look of disappointment on her youthful face was still burnt into his mind. Looking back on it, he felt a tinge of regret for his actions; but he also remembered how starved they were, how they surely would have all perished without that food. Even Clementine.
Reading his expression clearly, the stranger chuckled bitterly and replied. “Yeah. I'm not some cannibal, Lee. Some killer in the woods... Somevillian. I was a dad.”
Kenny was a dad. Larry was a dad. Lee thought about how all those people wanted to do was to protect those they cared about, how he even thought of himself as Clementine's father figure, and then thought about the terrible things that they had to do to protect their loved ones. This man in front of him was a father, and yet Lee couldn't care less about what he was. He cared about what he was then, and all he could see was a monster who destroyed everything that Lee held dear. Not paying attention anymore to what the stranger had to say, Lee leaned forward and frowned.
“Everything was out there for the taking! We were starving, we had noth-!”
“For the taking?!” The yell silenced Lee for a moment as he watched the man's grip on the gun tighten. “Do you realize on what you took from me?!”
“Don't you start who took what from who!” he scolded, pushing the fear down as anger quickly replaced it. “You took that little girl from me! You told her that you had her parents, and yet they're not here! You lied to her!”
The kidnapper paused in his accusations before shaking his head. “I'm not a bad man, Lee. I don't believe in vengeance but I don't have nothing left.”
A long sigh followed that and for the first time, Lee could actually see how tired the man in front of him was, both physically and emotionally. It made him think about how the world can twist even the most average man into someone completely different, how it can strip you of everything you love until you're nothing but a husk who does whatever you want to because there's no one left around you that you can hurt doing so. The question he asked next was quieter, his voice losing most of its sharp edge. “Have you ever hurt anyone that you cared about?”
The way he asked it made Lee felt like the question was more for the stranger rather than him, but none the less it made him think. It was true. Lee hurt more people than he can think of, some more than others, but hurt them all the same. He left Doug to die and didn't stop Lilly from killing Carley over a stupid misunderstanding, only for Lilly to later leave them stranded and steal the RV. He watched Kenny, his best friend throughout this entire time, lose all his family in one go and then perish in the alleyway saving the same kid that got them killed in the first place. Then he remembered Clementine...
He tried to protect her, shield her from all that was happening, and yet he couldn't protect her so many times. To then top it all off, he then had to break to the young girl that they couldn't find her parents, the people she cared about so much, and could only watch as she cried to herself as he watched from the couch. Eventually, he replied with a saddened. “Yeah...”
“Who?” the man asked, curious to who his hostage was talking about.
“A lot of people.” Lee sighed, staring down at the floor with guilt in his eyes. “They looked to me. I was like their leader to them, and hell.... I began to believe I was myself. But I was wrong, I let them all down... And now they're dead because of me.”
For a moment, the stranger allowed sympathy to wash over his face before locking his feelings away once more, and returned to his self-pity as he mumbled. “I hurt her so bad... I took my son, Adam, out hunting one day. She said he was too young but I figured... he gotta learn. I came back without him and the look on her face said... You are a monster. So we went out and looked for him. We searched and searched until we were exhausted but... we couldn't find him. Then we came back and found out that all our stuff was stolen by your people.”
A pause allowed him to take a deep breath and compose himself when he got too emotional, and then he glared at Lee once more. “I could have earned her trust, Lee... but not after that.”
They both fell silent as Lee mulled over what he just told him, how he and his group stole their food right after they lost their son. Eyes shimmering with guilt glanced up at the broken man in front of him and he softly apologized. “I'm sorry.”
“The hungrier we got, the more she blamed me...” he ignored Lee's apology, eyebrows furrowing with newly-found anger. “Until she finally took our daughter, Elizabeth and left... They didn't get far though, I found them on the road a day later...”
Eyes widening with shock, Lee swallowed down the lump in his throat as he tried to think of what to say to that, how he could apologize for basically ruining this man's life. He wasn't given the chance however, as the stranger glared up at him and growled. “Do I look like a monster to you?”
If he asked Lee that when they first sat down, he would have said 'yes' in a second, but listening to his story and how Lee's actions have spun everything out of control; he began to understand the man in front of him a little more. “No. You look like a man who's lost everything, and has nothing left to lose. I've seen others like you. I've been like that one time.”
His response seemed to have angered the stranger as he sneered. “I'm not like you. You walked a little girl into a dairy full of monsters and let them get their hands on her!”
That wasn't Lee's fault. The group was close to starving to death, and he didn't find out who they truly were until he found Mark in the bathroom without any legs. Angered by the accusation, he glared at the man and snapped. “It's more complicated than that! I didn't know what they were until-!”
“You let a boy be dragged off into the night to save a pretty girl with a gun!” The man continued his verbal assault, cutting Lee off in midst of his defence. Stunned by the mention of Doug, his memories flashed to the sight of the poor boy being dragged through the window and being eaten alive by the walkers. Trying to think of what to say, he shook his head as he responded. “I tried to save them both!”
“The sweatshirt she's wearing is my boy's! You stole that off us!” His voice broke under the intense anger and grief that the man was going through at that moment in time. Unable to think of why he did what he did, Lee just breathed shakily and whispered. “I fucked up.”
“Yeah, you did!” The peak of the emotional confrontation was beginning to fall then, and Lee looked down to see that in the midst of it, the man was pointing the gun furiously at him. After a few seconds he calmed down, and the gun slightly lowered as he slumped back into his chair. Lee was just sitting there, the accusations floating in his head as he tried to make sense of it all. The man wasn't there, so how could he have known?
“How could you have known all this?” he asked slowly, the harsh whisper that was his voice a strong contrast to the shouting that took place just then. Without uttering a single word, the stranger placed a walkie talkie on the table between them, and sat back as Lee finally realized that the man that Clementine was talking to weeks back at the Motel was in fact this man.
Relishing in the look of shock on Lee's face, the stranger didn't stop as he hissed. “You're a monster, Lee. You're a murderer and I'm gonna make sure that every minute of your pathetic existence is spent in agony for what you've done to me.”
“Just give me Clementine back.” Lee's voice was pleading, and he found himself not caring if it meant that he would be able to hold the small girl in his arms again. Mentioning this made the stranger guiltily glance away from Lee, and this only made him panic more as he begged once more. “Please... I just need to see her again.”
“I can't allow that, Lee.” He grumbled, still not meeting Lee's gaze as he continued. “She's not feeling well. She needs rest.”
“What do you mean she's not feeling well?!” Lee snapped, almost allowing the panic to take over when he thought about Clementine being ill. “What have you done to her?!”
“I didn't do anything.” The stranger replied coolly, raising his gun to warn Lee not to come any closer. Unable to take his rage out on the kidnapper, he was forced to sit back down again and stared at his attacker as he once again pleaded. “Just let us go.”
“No...” the man replied, glaring at Lee before leaning forward and staring down at the bag between his legs. “Hey honey, I think everything is going to be alright.”
Confused with this sudden action, Lee moved to say something when he noticed the rope locking Clementine in the room coming undone, the small girl becoming visible as she stalked quietly towards the pair. The man continued to talk to the bag as Lee took in how different Clementine looked to how she did when he last saw her; her hair even more messy than normal and her skin pale as well as deathly, eyes lost of all their gleam and shrunken into her face. Shocked by the stake, he glared angrily at the man as the young child grabbed the lamp off the desk by her door and sneaked behind the distracted stranger, raising the makeshift weapon over her head. Lee noted that her hand was shaking, even more than it did when she pointed the gun at the walker back in the train station. He gave her a reassuring look whilst the stranger wasn't looking, and then watched the small child bring the weapon down on his head quickly; causing him to cry out.
With the needed distraction, Lee launched himself forward and collided with the kidnapper, sending them both tumbling backwards and for Lee to be sent off to the side as the stranger pushed him off. Landing on his side with a thump, he was too slow to stop the stranger from pushing his face with his hand and attempting to aim his gun at Lee's face; only for the weapon to be stopped with his free hand. They struggled like this for a couple of seconds before Lee managed to separate the gun from his attacker, pushing him away and sending the gun sliding across the floor to the closet door.
Composing himself, Lee noticed the stranger making for the gun and intercepted him, tackling him into the closet and breaking the doors. The two men struggled with one another as they both fought for the upper hand, Lee managing to get his hand around the stranger's neck and strangling him with all the might that the guardian could muster. He grunted loudly as he watched the life ebb away in his victim's eyes, and as his arms feebly attempting to push Lee off to no effect. Lee didn't let up. He continued to push and push against the kidnapper's neck, feeling the feeble windpipe underneath his hand desperately trying to get air through it. Eventually, the stranger lost the fight and finally passed away, slumping down against the broken closet as Lee just stood there; his heavy breathing the only thing that could be heard in the silent room. He then knelt down and picked up the gun, not bothering to shoot the body to prevent him coming back.
A soft voice turned his attention to behind him. “Lee?”
Spinning around quickly, his face lit up as he saw Clementine staring back up at him with a tired smile on her face. The two just stood there, taking in the sight of one another before they suddenly embraced each other, Clementine sniffling as she burrowed her head into Lee's shoulder. That moment seemed to last forever in his mind, and he would have wished it did before the young girl moved away and he could clearly see the distress on her face. “Sweet Pea, what's wrong?”
“Lee....” she gasped, hiccuping as she failed to contain her tears, them streaming down her face as she finally revealed. “W-when that man took me, we ran into one of the monsters and...”
The look on her face made Lee's heart speed up, her voice barely a whisper as she finished. “It bit me...”
Everything crashed down around Lee then, his mind racing to try and comprehend what he was just told, and yet fate wouldn't give him long as all the strength that Clementine must have mustered to save Lee faded suddenly, causing the little girl to faint. She would have collapsed if Lee hadn't been quick to catch her, a desperate gasp the only response as he gazed down at the dying child in front of him. He failed her. He failed everyone. The world would not keep his loved ones alive when he put so many others in the ground.
“Lee... Are you crying?” When she asked this did Lee realize the wetness on his face as he felt it with his hand, his fingers coming back glistened in tears. Agony gripped his chest as he nodded, unable to push the words out of his mouth, and could only watch as the little girl he was meant to protect was fading away in his arms; a soft smile on her face as she muttered. “'I'm glad I'm with you...”
“It's gonna be alright, Sweet Pea.” he tried to reason, denial clouding his rationality as he stood up and moved towards the door, the young child in his arms. “We're gonna find Omid and Christa an-and we're gonna get you help. Just hang on, Sweet Pea, plea-please hang on!”
She took a shaky breath as she quietly replied to his desperate pleas. “Okay, Lee...”
Hand fiddling with the handle of the door, he wrenched it open only to come face-to-face with a walker on the other side, his gasp being silenced as it stood there sniffing. It didn't notice him for whatever reason and instead focused on Clementine. It was quickly shot by Lee to protect her, and he stood there in confusion, unable to determine why the walker homed in on Clementine instead of going for Lee. It was only then did he realize he was covered in walker blood from making his way to the Marsh House to find her, and the idea quickly formed in his head on how they were going to escape. Kneeling down beside the corpse, he placed Clementine on the floor and took out the hatchet from his back pocket, using the weapon to cut up the walker.
“W...What are you doing...?” he heard Clementine ask, turning to her with fresh blood on his hands. He noticed her disgusted look and smiled softly, replying to her question. “We need to cover ourselves in this. It's the only way we can escape Savannah.”
Only receiving a hesitant nod as consent from her, he started rubbing the blood all over her clothes, staining the fabric a dull red as he made sure all of her was covered. As he did this, Clementine made it known how gross it was to her, and was encouraged by her guardian as he whispered. “I'm almost done, just gotta make sure.”
“So... gross.” she mumbled, her voice growing more and more strained as time went on. Trying to ignore how tired she sounded, Lee finished off covering her with the walker guts, before scooping her up into his arms once more. “We're gonna move really slow when we're outside. Don't look around and don't make a sound, okay?”
She nodded in response and closed her eyes for a few moments as Lee whispered. “I'll get you outta here.”
Making his way through the hotel as quickly as he could, he didn't notice that the walkers were quiet then, and the stillness of the abandoned hotel was even more noticeable then. His mind was preoccupied with getting his little girl out of this place and to safety, then he would get her help. There had to be something he could do to save her. She can't die. She won't die, he won't let that happen. He reached the front door as quickly as he could before he paused, looking through the glass to see that they were in the herd; walkers as far as he could see just roaming around looking for their next meal. Glancing down at Clementine in his arms, he took a deep breath and opened the door, the roar of thousands of feet and growls deafened him as he took a moment to take it all in.
Clementine must have known that they were outside, as her body stiffened and she made a small noise of fear before going silent completely. With a reassuring look on his face, Lee made his way down the steps of the hotel and into the bulk of the hoard, walking as slowly as he could to blend in with the others. The buzz around him felt like it was increasing in volume and the close proximity between him and undead made his blood run cold. The sky was a dreary dark grey and signalled that it was going to become night time soon, the sound of thunder in the distance pushing him to hurry up and get out of Savannah. A walker knocked into him near the end and caused him to nearly topple over, Clementine quietly gasping as his grip on her loosened, before he regained his balance and carried on without looking back.
A gasp brought his attention downwards to the young girl as she stared off into a specific direction, her eyes brimming with tears as he turned his head to look in her direction; spotting two walkers stumbling around that looked familiar. The picture he found at Clementine's house flashed in his mind and he opened his mouth in shock; the walkers were Clementine's parents. Soft sniffling could be heard as the child failed to contain her grief, and she pressed her face into Lee's shirt in a desperate attempt to tell him to keep moving. He did so, and slowly made his way to the end of the street where the walkers were thinning out, only to stop once more when he felt Clementine's breathing becoming fainter.
She was dying. The realization that the time had come crashed down on his shoulders as he tried to kid himself just a little longer. There was no running from the truth however, and she gazed down at her with tear-filled eyes. He had to put her down. He couldn't let her become one of those things just like her parents, but there was nowhere for him to do it where the walkers wouldn't become attracted to the noise. Spotting a shutter that was open enough for him to slip in, he made a b-line for it and quickly fully shut the shutter to prevent any walkers from entering after them. With that done, he was still faced with the inevitable task of ending Clementine's suffering.
Placing the child against the wall on the far end of the store, he looked around for a way out for him, but could only see the exit blocked by a locked door and an undead security guard. He would need to break the window to reach in and unlock the door, and then he can take care of the walker. This was the last thing on his mind however, as the dying Clementine behind him was cutting deep wounds into his heart. Trying to focus on the problem of getting out just to avoid the pain of what was happening, he looked around for something to smash the window, and eventually spotted the baseball bat under the counter that must have been left behind by the owners.
Rushing over to it, he gripped the handle of the bat firmly and turned around, stopping in front of the door before whispering behind him. “Watch for broken glass, Sweet Pea.”
He received no response and lowered his head slightly, before bringing the weapon down on the window and smashing it to millions of pieces, the noise startling the walker and causing it to begin growling loudly at the new potential meal. Ignoring the threat, he gripped his bat tighter and neared the walker cautiously, dodging the swinging hands so it didn't grab him. He swung as hard as he could and smashed the undead's skull in, the squelch echoing in the room as the killed monster slumped in its chair; allowing Lee to grab the keys to the exit as well as the gun.
He didn't want to turn around. The agonizing grief made his chest tighten and his cheeks wet with hot tears, his grip on the bat loosened so much that it fell to the floor with a clatter. With the gun in his hand then, he finally made himself turn around and move slowly towards Clementine; the child no longer noticing him there. He kneeled beside her and placed a hand on her shoulder, almost snatching his hand away to how still she felt. Her shallow breathing still showed she was alive, but only barely. Dull, amber eyes glanced up at her guardian and she frowned sadly. “I saw my parents.”
“I know, Sweet Pea...” he replied, his voice cracking harshly. “We got away though.”
She sniffed as tears fell from her eyes, her voice barely over a whisper as she cried. “They're dead for sure...”
Lee just knelt there as she began crying quietly, unable to bring himself to explain to her that she was going to die, that he failed to protect her. How could anyone say that to a child? To tell them that they can't be saved and so must be killed? Clementine had a right to know he thought though, and so took in a shaky breath and sighed.
“Clem...” he began, not knowing how to phrase it to her. “I know this must be hard to here but... We're not getting out of Savannah. The bad man left your bite for... for too long and-and....”
He stopped, on the verge of breaking down, when he heard Clementine whisper. “You have to shoot me, don't you?”
The reality of this was too much for the grown man as he simply nodded, causing the child to begin crying once more and forcing Lee to try and reassure her. “It's gonna be alright, Clem. You'll... you'll get to see your parents again. That's what you wanted, wasn't it?”
“Y-Yeah, Lee... I did but...” she hiccuped once and continued. “I-I can't leave you!”
“It'll be okay... Shhh.” he whispered, holding her small hand within his as he brought the gun up. Staring down at the thing in his other hand, he looked up at Clementine and saw that she closed her eyes again, waiting for the final blow. He wiped his face with the back of his hand and then whispered. “I'll miss you...”
Clementine squeezed his hand softly as she whispered back. “Me too...”
The time had come. Lee knew this, and yet it was almost impossible for him to lift the gun up. Eventually, he managed to and shakily aimed the weapon at Clementine, finger on the trigger ready to pull. He dropped his aim for a second and then forced himself to take aim once more, looking away as he pulled the trigger, flinching as the bang rang in the air and blood splattered onto his already bloodied shirt. He didn't want to look, but he wouldn't leave her there to rot either, and so he opened his eyes and wept as he saw what became of his sweet pea.
Grabbing her body, he lifted her up and turned around to leave the building, carefully stepping around the dead walker. Exiting the building and wandering aimlessly through the multiple alley-ways, he eventually found himself out of the streets of the city. Everything was numbed to the point that he had no idea where he was or where he was going. He even thought about the purpose of going on when he's failed to take care of someone he pledged to. I'll look after you until then.
Hours, or at he thought hours, had passed before he even made it to the outskirts of the city, slowly looking around for an appropriate place to lay the dead child to rest. His arms tired as he continued walking, but he didn't give up none the less, he owed Clem that much. The city landscape turned into countryside, and the sun began to rise as he finally stopped, laying the body on the ground as he began to dig a grave with anything he could use; often resorting to his hands. Eventually, it was done and Clementine was placed inside, the dirt hitting on top of her with a thud as Lee carefully covered up back up. Next to him was a wooden cross he made with found twigs and drove it into the ground, sitting back to stare at the makeshift grave with a dazed gaze.
He wouldn't move from that spot. He didn't want to, and he didn't feel like there was any point anymore of moving. He wanted to stay there until eventually either hunger or thirst claimed him, and he would be with his family and everyone he loved again. He wouldn't be alone anymore. He heard footsteps behind him and still didn't move, not caring if it was bandits or walkers or anything. It wasn't until he heard Christa's voice did he bow his head further. “Lee? What happened? Where's Clem?!”
He didn't respond, or react when Christa's worried face came into view at the side. His voice was nothing when he sighed. “She's... gone....”
Immediately understanding what he meant, Christa covered her mouth in shock and stood up, Omid quick to comfort her as she softly wept for the loss of the small child. Tears wouldn't stop falling down Lee's face as he took out her hat from his back pocket, staring at it for minutes before placing it on top of his head. The trio stood there as Lee continued to mourn, before Christa softly tapped his shoulder and sighed. “We... We need to go, Lee.”
“I know.” He grumbled, still staring at the grave as he sniffed. “Just let me say goodbye.”
“Alright...” she responded, removing her hand and backing off slightly as Lee placed his hand on the grave and closed his eyes momentarily, silently farewelling the child before standing up and walking between the other two survivors without uttering a single word. The couple glanced at each other with worry, before following after him quickly; leaving the grave and Clementine behind.